UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The rollout of a street cleaning pilot program on the Upper East Side has one nonprofit that's been cleaning the neighborhood for two decades claiming the were snubbed.
Wildcat Services will receive $85,500 in funding from the City Council's NYC Clean Up initiative to sweep, collect trash and clean graffiti four days per week on stretches of the Upper East Side that are not currently served by other cleaners, City Councilman Ben Kallos announced Wednesday.
Wildcat Services will cover two-miles of "problem areas" on the Upper East Side on Second Avenue between East 57th and 72nd streets and East 79th, 86th and 96th streets between East End and Lexington Avenues, Kallos announced. The Bronx-based nonprofit was one of two organizations that bid for the NYC Clean Up contract and currently work with 25 other members of the City Council in every borough except Staten Island through the initiative, Kallos said.
"We're cleaning up the neighborhood block by block, from a new covered trashcan on every corner, to launching and supporting community groups, to partnering with Wildcat to dedicating a crew to keep the Upper East Side clean four days a week," Kallos said in a statement.
A four-person team from Wildcat is expected to begin servicing the new routes as soon as next week, the organization's Manager of Operations Mario La Rosa said.
Wednesday's announcement got testy when The Doe Fund — which operates the "Ready, Willing & Able" street cleaning program — crashed the press conference in a scene reminiscent of "West Side Story" without the dancing.
Men in the trademark blue uniform of Ready, Willing & Able marched up East 86th Street to stand face-to-face with neon-dressed counterparts from Wildcat to engage in dueling chants. The Doe Fund has cleaned Upper East Side streets pro bono since the organization was founded 24 years ago on the Upper East Side and still services more than 300 trash cans in the neighborhood seven days per week, spokeswoman Shannon Moriarty said.
Moriarty told Patch that The Doe Fund wasn't aware that the city was even offering a contract to clean stretches of the Upper East Side such as East 86th Street and that awarding Wildcat the contract takes jobs away from the Ready, Willing & Able transitional program.
Workers in the Ready, Willing & Able program agree to stay in Doe Fund shelters, submit to twice-weekly drug testing, are paid for their services and receive occupational training throughout their time in the program. Most of the workers are either homeless or formerly-incarcerated men.
A Doe Fund supervisor named Craig told Patch that he's "living proof" that the program works.
"What we do is give opportunities to other men. We don't hire our guys to be street sweepers, anybody can sweep the streets," Craig told Patch. "We're giving our guys the resources to make sure they're employed when the finish our program."
The Doe Fund currently operates routes on East End Avenue between East 79th and 90th streets, York Avenue between East 72nd and 90th streets, First Avenue between East 72nd and 82nd streets, Third Avenue between East 63rd and 84th streets and Lexington Avenue between East 63rd and 84th streets.
Wildcat's La Rosa said that his organization, founded in 1972, was one of the first to hire unemployed people with criminal convictions and has been working for decades to find its workers full-time jobs. Wildcat Services is partners with the Fedcap Group, which has been providing services to formerly incarcerated individuals and people with disabilities since the 30s.
Kallos balked at The Doe Fund's claim that the organization was unaware of the pilot program funding, telling Patch that the organization's founder George McDonald helped create the NYC Clean Up initiative.
"The Doe Fund has previously won funding, including twice from our office," Kallos said. "They know how the process works, they know when to apply ... I don't know why they stopped applying, I'm disappointed that they didn't [apply]. We're glad that Wildcat was willing to answer the call."
Both Kallos and representatives from a number of neighborhood block associations said that there's more than enough trash to be collected on the Upper East Side for both The Doe Fund and Wildcat to work harmoniously. Kallos added that Wildcat's routes could be expanded should The Doe Fund choose to withdraw services from the neighborhood.
Moriarty, The Doe Fund's spokeswoman, could not confirm whether the organization is considering cutting services on the Upper East Side