UPPER EAST SIDE — Politicians and residents are kicking off an initiative to clean up overflowing garbage cans, plastic wrappers on sidewalks, and messy vendors who have been littering around East 86th Street by creating a neighborhood Business Improvement District.
The BID, if approved by the city, would raise money from commercial and residential properties to go toward a fund for supplemental services like sanitation, public safety, and beautification efforts along the street and a few blocks north and south of it.
"East 86th Street is a street that is screaming for more TLC," said Councilman Dan Garodnick.
"Between the street vending, the garbage and the lack of way-finding for tourists, there's much more that can be done. It's a core business corridor that deserves a BID, which will help significantly."
East 86th Street has an abundance of box stores like H&M and Best Buy, along with restaurants crowding the area.
It's also the crossroads for commuters who take the 4, 5 and 6 trains, as well as for those who take the crosstown M86 Select Bus Service.
Garbage has been a major problem in the area for a few years and has only gotten worse since the DOE Fund, which regularly cleaned up the sidewalks, left the area to help with Hurricane Sandy cleanup, according to longtime resident Andrew Fine.
"One of the biggest problems is the bins not being emptied frequently enough. They become what I call a 'snowcone' because it overflows and spews into the streets," said Fine, who maintains a blog covering neighborhood issues.
"And most local merchants don’t take seriously their obligation to clean the sidewalks and 18 inches out into street. A lot of businesses on 86th Street don't do that properly."
Garbage from many street vendors and restaurants often ends up as "puddles of sludge like a swimming pool" in the street, he added.
"It doesn't seem reflective of a first world existence," Fine said. "This is a very wealthy city so you don't expect to see squalor and I don't think there has to be squalor. I think it can be remedied."
Councilmen Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick are hoping to achieve a solution by initiating a BID in the area, they said.
"East 86th has similar traffic as Penn Station has at 7th or 8th Avenue and that area has a BID, but we don’t," Kallos said. "No amount of city services will be enough to deal with the amount of foot traffic we're seeing."
A BID, which is a nonprofit authorized by the public and run by residents and property owners, has the ability to bid for and hire nonprofit organizations or private businesses to take care of commercial areas.
Residential buildings would pay roughly $1 a year to fund the BID and commercial properties would be assessed with a fraction of a percentage on square footage or value.
Kallos said the BID could need as much as "mid-to low-six figures" or up to $1 million to deal with the volume and number of complaints the city has received about the area.
The councilmen formed a steering committee in September comprised of business owners and residents, who put together a district needs survey asking residents what improvements they think would best clean up the neighborhood.
The survey is the first step toward creating a BID, which could take roughly two years to form. The district would then need approval from the City Council and mayor, Kallos said.
"Having a BID in the area is long overdue," he added.