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Street Cleanliness Rating Tumbles Uptown Amid Less Parking Regulations

By Nigel Chiwaya | June 26, 2013 2:53pm
 Street cleanliness ratings in Washington Heights and Inwood fell in May as the Department of Satiation paused Street cleaning in Community Board 12.
Street cleanliness ratings in Washington Heights and Inwood fell in May as the Department of Satiation paused Street cleaning in Community Board 12.
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

INWOOD — Alternate side parking may be less stressful in northern Manhattan these days — but uptowners may be paying for that relief with dirtier streets.

Washington Heights and Inwood took a hit in May as the Department of Sanitation suspended street cleaning in advance of a new decreased cleaning schedule.

According to the Mayor's Office of Operations, which tracks street cleanliness, the ratings in Manhattan's Community Board 12 tumbled more than 10 points between April and May, falling from 91.5 to 80.9.

The decrease dropped uptown to last place in Manhattan in street cleanliness during the month.

Ironically, the area's previously high cleanliness ratings are the reason that street cleaning was scaled back in the first place. The Community Board requested fewer street cleaning days in 2011 to ease up parking headaches for uptown motorists.

The board, acting on public request, took advantage of a 2011 law that allowed neighborhoods to request less street cleaning if their cleanliness ratings were consistently strong.

Last month's dip continues a downward trend since 2011, when the neighborhood's cleanliness rating was 95.9. Even last year, its rating was 93.6.

And while most residents were hesitant to call uptown streets dirty, they acknowledged that the cleanliness just wasn't up to their standards.

"It's a little worse," said Valentine Arzuyan, who has lived in Inwood for 23 years. "Especially on the weekend by [Isham Park]."

Community Board 12 District Manager Ebenzer Smith told DNAinfo New York the board has received a few calls from residents complaining about dirty streets. Board Chairman George Fernandez added that most of the complaints have been from Inwood, especially near the neighborhood parks.

Fernandez noted that the street cleaning reduction was a tradeoff: in exchange for fewer street cleaning days the neighborhood doesn't have to deal with pollution from idling cars as often. To make it work, Fernandez said community members would have to work together to keep their streets clean.

"It takes a team effort," Rodriguez said. "The hope is that once they start cleaning again and we get that balance, things will be good."

But Fernandez noted it was too early to draw conclusions from the reduced street cleaning schedule.

"That a discussion we have to have as a community," Fernandez said. "We still don't know if it's going to work or not, so we have to see."

The new street cleaning conditions even have local politicians on edge. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, speaking at Community Board 12's general meeting Tuesday, warned board members to keep an eye on the situation.

And while Rodriguez said he was not advocating for a return to the previous cleaning rules, he said they should be kept on the table if the streets remained dirty.

"If the streets in our community do not continue being cleaned we need to be ready to go back and say, 'It didn't work,'" Fernandez said.