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East 86th St. Drowning in Garbage After Doe Fund Pullout, Critics Say

By DNAinfo Staff on January 25, 2013 12:54pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — In the wake of a nonprofit organization's decision to stop cleaning East 86th Street and surrounding blocks, residents say they're being overwhelmed with uncollected garbage despite community beautification efforts.

At a recent Community Board 8 Environment and Sanitation Committee meeting, residents said that the East 86th Street corridor has been ravaged by refuse — including ripped garbage bags filled with residential waste.

The corridor roughly stretches between East 84th and 88th streets around Lexington Avenue.

Residents say the situation has been steadily declining since about November 2012, when the Doe Fund — citing Hurricane Sandy-prompted financial concerns — withdrew maintenance services from the area.

The Doe Fund is a workfare program that puts the homeless and ex-cons to work cleaning city streets.

"There are times you feel like you're waddling in garbage," said CB8 Member Barbara Rudder, who lives in the area.

"I've seen people throw things in garbage pails, and they immediately fall out because they're overflowing. It's disturbing. The place used to be perfect."

Michele Birnbaum, CB8 member, wondered if bad behavior — such as personal and commercial littering — was exacerbating the already bad situation.

"Some of this is broken-window theory," she said.

Birnbaum also blamed the increasing commercialization of the area, noting big-box stores just aren't invested in keeping the community clean.

"The old vision of someone opening the door in the morning and sweeping the sidewalk" is a thing of the past, she said. "These are not mom-and-pop businesses anymore."

Elaine Walsh, CB8 member and East 86th Street Neighborhood Association chairwoman, reiterated that her organization has been paying a private company to sweep and clean tree pits since the Doe Fund ducked out after some 15 years of neighborhood maintenance.

But businesses are not doing their part to sweep their sidewalk 18 inches into the street, as per city regulations, complicating her organization's efforts, Walsh said.

"We've informed businesses and [The Department of] Sanitation has been going around talking to them. If it does not work, we are asking for greater enforcement," she said.

Walsh warned that the association — which has contacted Atlantic Maintenance to sweep sidewalks and empty garbage cans for four hours each day — can only provide that amount of daily cleanup, which accounts for about one-third of the area's needs, she said.

And it's unclear how long the association can continue doing so, she said.

"We cannot long-term sustain this effort," Walsh said.