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May 24, 2004
Crews reclaiming White Plains Road

A troubled northern Bronx commercial strip is getting a double-barreled cleanup.

White Plains Road in Williamsbridge has been tarnished with a reputation for streetcorner drug dealing and litter, but with a police crackdown and a new $70,000 street-cleaning initiative, community members and police are hoping to clean up its image.

The street-cleaning plan, announced Friday, features a group of formerly homeless men, outfitted with blue Ready Willing & Able uniforms and equipped with brooms and trash bins, who will collect garbage and clean sidewalks along White Plains Road from E. Gun Hill Road to E. 233rd St. The cleaners come from the Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization that has helped more than 1,700 homeless people get back on their feet with temporary jobs and social services.

At the same time, the Police Department's citywide Operation Impact has 46 police officers working daily from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. along the street, which has experienced a number of violent incidents and shootings between rival drug dealers.

"It was common knowledge that if you wanted to get marijuana, you came to White Plains Road," said Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D-Wakefield, Williamsbridge). "It makes people feel safer walking on the road with a cop on nearly every corner."

Heastie, state Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx, Mount Vernon), City Councilman Larry Seabrook (D-Bronx) and the Bronx Business Outreach Center jointly came up with funding for the cleanup project.

Erik Arroyo, a branch manager at North Fork Bank, where the cleaning crew stores its equipment, said he thinks the initiative will not only remedy the drug issue, but eliminate it.

"No matter how many drops it takes, we're going to fill up the bucket," Arroyo said.

One of the crew members, Kevin Sykes, said he is only three months out of jail.

"It's changed my life," Sykes said of Ready Willing & Able. "It's stopped me from selling drugs and it's helped me get my life together."

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