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Homeless Street-Cleaning Organization Pushed Out of SoHo After 25 Years

By Danielle Tcholakian | December 21, 2016 8:44am
 ACE employs homeless men and women to clean New York City streets.
ACE employs homeless men and women to clean New York City streets.
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ACE Programs for the Homeless

SOHO — ACE, the long-running organization that employs homeless men and women to clean New York City streets, is leaving SoHo after nearly 25 years due to the area's high office rent prices. 

The organization had stopped cleaning the streets of SoHo, TriBeCa and Nolita in October due to "ever-increasing costs associated with providing donation-based sanitation services" in those neighborhoods, Executive Director James Martin said in a statement.

"While we are sad to leave our friends and neighbors in Lower Manhattan, the discontinuation of donation based sanitation services in these neighborhoods and the relocation of our program headquarters will positively impact our finances and our programs, allowing us to continue our mission, and better serve more of the estimated 60,000 New Yorkers experiencing homelessness in New York City," Martin said in the statement. 

ACE plans to relocate to Long Island City in early 2017, Martin said.

Expressing gratitude to their "supporters and partners" in Lower Manhattan, Martin said that the organization has "placed well over 2,500 homeless New Yorkers into full-time, permanent employment" since it launched in SoHo in 1992.

"We look forward to working together in the future as ACE continues to provide life changing services to New York's homeless population," he said.

SoHo Alliance director Sean Sweeney lamented the loss of the organization in an email blast, saying that the neighborhood is already feeling the loss of ACE's red-shirted street cleaners.

"The new multinational businesses are reluctant to contribute to this charity and rising wages added to its burden," Sweeney wrote. "ACE served SoHo for a quarter of a century and it will be sorely missed."

Sweeney said that since the organization's special trash cans were removed from the area, "the remaining city trash bins overflow at times."

"Our sidewalks and gutters have become noticeably dirty... especially along our more congested streets and intersections," Sweeney wrote, warning property owners to keep the sidewalks and gutters clean up to 18 inches from the curb to avoid city fines up to $100.

Sweeney urged stores to participate in the Department of Sanitation's Adopt-a-Can program, in which the city supplies trash bags and stores or building owners remove full bags and replace them with new ones. 

He also launched a Twitter account @CleanUpSoHo, and encouraged people to tweet photos of overflowing cans to the account so he can provide them to the Sanitation Department and local elected officials "as evidence that something must be done to keep SoHo tidy."