DNAinfo.com DOE Fund Returns to 86th Street for Holidays Amid Complaints about Trash by Shaye Weaver
UPPER EAST SIDE — The DOE Fund is making a temporary return to East 86th Street to clean up the garbage that residents say chronically builds up along the sidewalk and flows out of trash bins. The DOE Fund, or the "men in blue," as they're called, began bagging up trash along East 86th Street on Dec. 19 and will finish their stint in the new year, according to Councilman Ben Kallos, who secured funding to pay for clean up on the busy street from Lexington to First Avenue. While the service will only be around for the holiday season, it could be extended for longer if a business improvement district was created for the area, which would organize local businesses around these types of efforts, Kallos said. "We don't have the funding," he said. "Hopefully people liked what they saw and can go to businesses and ask them to participate in the BID." Kallos tapped into city discretionary funding in response to complaints from residents regarding dirty streets and overflowing garbage bins, he said. The last time the DOE Fund, which employs the formerly homeless and incarcerated men, served 86th Street was about three years ago when Hurricane Sandy hit and their services were needed to clean up debris, according to Alexander Horowitz, the DOE Fund's director of external affairs. "We would love to be back as soon as possible...because of the quality of life on East 86th Street. Certainly, from the subway station going east is one of the greatest needs," said Horowitz, adding that the area is highly congested, especially during the holidays, with pedestrians and street vendors. The area has gotten so dirty that local businesses and residents, including the East 86th Street Association, have resorted to taking matters into their own hands. Longtime resident Andrew Fine recruited local businesses and residential buildings along Third Avenue between 84th and 86th streets in December to clean up the sidewalks as part of the city's Adopt-A-Basket program, but help is still needed, he said. "The DOE Fund is more than welcome back to East 86th Street, where 'Ready, Willing and Able' originated years ago," he said. "We must figure out how to make this permanent." Fine is currently working with The Brompton, a luxury rental building, to bag up trash from street bins and tidy the sidewalk on the southeast corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue. "I have tried to tackle this issue from many angles," Fine said. "Everyone agrees that the local sanitation issue has been a disgrace, but it has taken cooperation of city agencies, our local councilman, and local businesses to piece together a solution. It is finally coming together. The results are tangible. You can see the improvement and it is feels great." The city Department of Sanitation did not immediately respond to request for comment. Kallos and fellow councilman Dan Garodnick kicked off a long-term effort to form a BID for the area last month, motivated by complaints of garbage piling up regularly on busy sidewalks like the ones on East 86th Street. In order to form the BID, residential buildings would have to agree to pay $1 a year to fund it, and commercial properties would pitch in a percentage based on its own value or size, Kallos said. In September, the councilmembers formed a steering committee comprised of business owners and residents, who sent out a district needs survey in November asking residents what improvements they think would like to see in the neighborhood.