ASTORIA — A team of cleaners will pick up litter and empty trash cans along commercial streets in Astoria, part of one lawmaker's effort to clean up the neighborhood's garbage problem.
City Councilman Costa Constantinides has allocated $40,000 in discretionary funds to hire workers from The Doe Fund to clean three major thoroughfares, following complaints from residents about litter and overflowing trash cans in the neighborhood.
"I heard too many stories about people jumping over garbage on their way to work, about small business owners who had to be garbage ninjas — running out in front of their businesses to clean up before they get a ticket," the councilman said at an announcement Friday.
"The Doe Fund is going to make our streets cleaner."
The cleaning crews started work last week, and will work seven-hour shifts seven days a week along 31st Street, 30th Avenue from Athens Square Park to Steinway Street and Broadway from 31st Street to Steinway Street.
The workers are trainees in The Doe Fund's "Ready, Willing and Able" program, which employs formerly homeless and incarcerated men in street cleaning jobs while simultaneously providing education and career development services.
"This is a win not only for the community, but for our guys," Doe Fund founder George McDonald said, adding that the program aims to equip its participants with the skills to get permanent work.
"That's the ultimate goal of our program — to get people jobs."
Constantinides and other elected officials have been pushing to increase the number of trash can pick-ups in Astoria. Street garbage cans are currently emptied once a day, which local leaders say is not enough.
"We're working with Sanitation to get that done," Constantinides said. "In the interim, The Doe Fund is going to continue to keep our streets clean."