Like Oscar the Grouch, New Yorkers are surly and we live in filth. But things might get a lot less trashy, thanks to a series of initiatives announced by Mayor de Blasio today. The city is set to expand graffiti removal, sidewalk power washing, litter-basket pickup, and highway ramp cleanup, de Blasio said.
Neighborhoods like Greenpoint and Williamsburg got solar-powered sidewalk trash compactors last year. This spring, around April 1, neighborhoods still stuck with old-school litter baskets will start getting some relief from overflowing Starbucks cups as well. The Department of Sanitation is expanding Sunday and holiday litter basket collection by 40 percent, or an additional 5,000 baskets, the Mayor said. “This is something – I remember my time as a City Council member in Brooklyn – this is one of the things people care about the most,” De Blasio was quoted as saying in a transcript of today’s press conference. “They want their streets to be clean, they hate when they see litter on the streets, they hate when they see those baskets overflowing.”
De Blasio also plans to double the Graffiti-Free NYC program so that unsightly tags will be removed from 40 million square feet of space per year. “Graffiti per se, you can’t call it a major crime but it really is upsetting to people in neighborhoods,” de Blasio noted. “It makes them feel like the quality of life is not as good and I know this from having served in the City Council and representing neighborhoods in Brooklyn.”
According to James Katz, chief of staff at the NYC Economic Development Corporation, 48 percent of graffiti complaints come from Brooklyn, and about 15 from Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx, respectively. De Blasio described stepped-up enforcement against graffiti vandals as “part of the broader efforts the NYPD will be making on quality-of-life crimes” now that violent crime is less of a pressing issue as it has been in previous years. But Katz made clear that sanctioned street art won’t be a target. “Street art is typically commissioned by somebody and also typically put on private property with the property owner’s consent,” he noted. “The Graffiti Free Program, as it’s been structured, has also taken the rights and responsibilities of private property owners into account.”
In addition to stepping up the power-washing of walls, de Blasio announced that upgraded cleaning trucks would begin power-washing sidewalks along main shopping corridors. At some point this year, sidewalks will start being blasted on Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island, Church Avenue in Brooklyn, the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub in Queens, Jerome-Gun Hill in the Bronx, Broadway on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and 125th Street in Manhattan. More locations will be added as the city consults with elected officials and merchant organizations.
“I’ve traveled the city all the time,” De Blasio said, explaining the impetus behind the initiative. “I talk to people all the time. I walk on those sticky sidewalks and, you know, I’ve seen some that just don’t represent how good New York City should be.”