< Return To News Archive
August 26, 2003
Doe Fund Cleanup is a Main Event for Nabe

by Robin Haas
Break out the white gloves. Starting today, the men in blue will be cleaning up Main St. in Kew Gardens Hills - a commercial strip that has long endured overflowing trash bins, litter and graffiti, as well as signs and flyers glued to nearly every street lamp.

The men in the blue jumpsuits are actually ex-cons and former drug addicts, armed with brooms and pails. They clean the streets of New York as part of the Doe Fund's Ready, Willing & Able program. The Doe Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides jobs, housing and other social services to former convicts, felons and homeless men and women while they rebuild their lives.

Starting today, members of the Doe Fund will begin a series of one-day cleanups, once every few weeks until the program officially gets underway this year, when two full-time workers will be cleaning up Main St. between 76th and Melbourne Aves. five days a week.

That's good news for homeowners, merchants, shoppers and community leaders in the neighborhood who have long complained of overflowing garbage cans, chronic littering, graffiti and posted flyers, stickers and signs that are eyesores. "There's tons of garbage. It will only be a help," griped Ronnie Hershenov, owner of Paper Palace at 71-34 Main St. "A lot of the garbage ends up on the street because the pails are full."

The presence of Doe Fund workers on Main St. will help business owners stave off sanitation violations, as merchants and homeowners are responsible for keeping the sidewalks and the first 18 inches into the street in front of their property clean at all times.

Many business owners deliberately move litter cans away from their storefronts in fear of getting ticketed for wind-blown debris.

The city broom-cleans the roadway of Main St. six days a week and garbage cans were emptied three times a week, according to Sanitation Department spokesman Kathy Dawkins. With Mayor Bloomberg's new citywide initiative, trash bins are to be emptied daily.

Still, many community leaders are fearful that the new policy could be trashed as quickly as it appeared - and welcome the services of the Doe Fund.

'Begging for relief'

"We [lobbied] the Department of Sanitation to death and they keep telling us Main St. is one of the cleanest in New York," said Pat Dolan, president of Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association. "We live there, so we know it's filthy. People in my neighborhood have been begging for relief for a long time."

"It's disgusting," said Elaine Fischman, standing on Main St., looking at an empty water bottle, an ice cream wrapper and a crushed and dirtied flyer beneath her feet.

"They should be summonsed," said Fischman. "People just throw their garbage anywhere and they don't care."

< Return To News Archive ^ back to top