It was quite the scene on East 86th Street early this afternoon as Council Member Ben Kallos hosted a press conference with supportive local community organizations to announce an $85,000 pilot program to fund street cleaners for areas of the Upper East Side not covered by the Doe Fund. The Doe Fund has strenuously objected to the use of any other cleaning service, citing its longstanding commitment to the community, and called for a protest of the presser. In addition to the 70 or so Doe employees that met that call to arms, a couple dozen workers from newly hired organization "Wildcat" came in support of their organization. The end result was a chaotic lunch hour with the two groups exchanging chants on the busy thoroughfare before, during, and after the event. To his credit, Council Member Kallos powered through as did supporters of the initiative from the East 86th Street Association (disclosure, that's me), The Carnegie Hill Neighbors, East 79th Street Association, East 72nd Neighborhood Association, and Upper Green Side.
In short, the pilot program is intended to put a group of "Wildcats" on the street to clean sidewalks, tree pits, storm drains, and clear snow from areas that currently have no such regular services. Many tree pits, along 2nd Avenue for instance, have not been cleaned since trees were planted during the Second Avenue Subway project. East 86th Street lost Doe Fund years ago after the cleaners were deployed for Sandy cleanup and never came back. The pilot program is intended to compliment the work of the Doe Fund and not step in on their turf. The Wildcat Organization was founded in 1972 by Herb Sturz to implement a transitional work program for the unemployed with criminal convictions. Two things are perfectly clear, both organizations are good, charitable and welcome and I think we can all attest- there is plenty of garbage to go around!