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Street Sweeping May Increase Uptown After Decline in Cleanliness

By Lindsay Armstrong | April 24, 2015 12:20pm | Updated on April 27, 2015 8:45am
 The Sanitation Department may reinstate twice a week street cleanings.
Street Cleanings May Increase Uptown
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Uptown residents may have to get used to moving their cars more often if the neighborhood doesn’t clean up its act, the city said.

The Department of Sanitation is considering increasing the number of street sweepings — and, as a result, the number of alternate-side parking days — because of an increase of trash on Uptown streets, a spokeswoman said.

“Street cleanliness is a major priority for the Department of Sanitation,” said spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins.

Street cleanings in the district were reduced to once a week for one-way streets and twice a week for two-way streets in 2013 at the request of Community Board 12.

The reduction came after the City Council passed a law stating that community districts with a high cleanliness rating could ask for the decrease.

Community Board 12 supported the initiative to ease the burdens of alternate-side parking and as a way to reduce emissions from idling cars in a district with a high rate of asthma, board members told DNAinfo at the time.

However, the mayor’s office and the Sanitation Department said the district is not living up to its end of the bargain.

Under the law, the original street-cleaning schedule may be reinstituted if the district receives an average cleanliness score of less than 90 percent for any period of three consecutive months, or if the average score for the district falls below 90 percent over a period of two consecutive fiscal years, Dawkins explained.

Data from the Mayor’s Office of Operations, which monitors street cleanliness levels, shows that the overall rating for Community District 12 fell from 90.5 percent for fiscal year 2013 to 86.1 percent in fiscal year 2014.

In addition, the district has fallen below 90 percent for each of the past three months, Dawkins noted, with a rating of 86.6 percent in January 2015, 87.3 percent in February 2015 and a lowly 64.4 percent in March 2015.

This may mean that Uptown drivers will again have to deal with alternate-side parking regulations twice a week on one-way streets and four times a week on two-way streets.

However, the Sanitation Department hasn't determined if and when the increased schedule will resume. Fiscal year 2015 will end in June, giving the agency more data to use for its decision, Dawkins said.

Uptown residents had mixed reactions to the news.

“It does get dirtier,” said David Ortiz, a 29-year-old Washington Heights resident, of the reduced cleaning schedule.

Ortiz said that sometimes the street sweepers skip a block if a car is parked on it during the appointed cleaning times, leaving residents to wait a week for another cleaning.

A driver himself who described the Uptown parking situation as “horrible,” Ortiz said he’d nonetheless like to see the number of street cleanings increased.

“I feel that it’s better to go ahead and move the cars more unless people are going to start cleaning the streets themselves,” he said.

Heather Colon, who has lived Uptown since 1971, disagreed.

“I don’t really find it much different than it was before,” Colon said.

She acknowledged that busy two-way streets like Fort Washington Avenue should be cleaned more often, but said that the difference in cleanliness was too slight to warrant the difficulties drivers would face under an increased schedule.

“Seeing it from a driver’s perspective, the difference is so negligible that they should just leave it as it is,” said Colon, who does not drive.

Community Board 12 chairman George Fernandez said he has noticed a small increase in litter, particularly in commercial areas where there are many street vendors. 

However, he noted that the three months the Department of Sanitation cited in its decision were particularly difficult ones weather-wise. Alternate-side and street cleanings were suspended during part of this time because of problems with snow clearing, he said.

Fernandez added that the board plans to organize a forum to address the issue and get the streets cleaned up.

“We want to educate the residents, business owners and building management so that hopefully we can get everybody working together to do their part,” Fernandez said.