City Cleanup Corps celebrated its six-month anniversary in Jackson Heights last week by cleaning up Diversity Plaza.
Inspired by New Deal legislation like the Civilian Conservation Corps, the City Cleanup Corps hires local residents to support the beautification and cleanup of various neighborhoods.
So far, the group has collected over 600,000 bags of trash and hired approximately 10,000 New Yorkers, both seasonal and full-time.
“This plan supports a recovery that works for all New Yorkers,” said Lorraine Grillo, the city’s senior advisor for recovery. “We knew we had to bolster our workforce while prioritizing what makes our amazing neighborhoods, our community members and public spaces.”
The City Cleanup Corps wipes away graffiti, power-washes sidewalks, plants flowers, and collects trash. Efforts have been focused in Jackson Heights for the past week, where corps members helped with the cleanup following Hurricane Ida.
“When the hurricane devastated our neighborhood homes, the City Cleanup Corps was there to help,” Grillo added. “Members have been helping residents shorten damage and get back to normal.”
Even before the hurricane, the City Cleanup Corps undertook a number of projects in Jackson Heights. These include the planting of flowers and community gardens along 69th Street, 37th Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue, and in Diversity Plaza.
“I say this is a beautiful community, not just because of its diversity, but because it’s also physically nice,” saie Councilman Daniel Dromm. “But because it’s so nice, we get a lot of people that come from the tri-state area to visit Little India, Little Pakistan, and all our other institutions. Because of all that traffic, we have a lot of sanitation issues and challenges.”
The City Cleanup Corps has employed thousands of New Yorkers who work alongside employees from the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and other city agencies.
DSNY Commissioner Edward Grayson said their assistance has been an invaluable resource during the pandemic and after Hurricane Ida.
“During times of high demand, their help has been very helpful,” he said, “and we always promise to handle the back end and take the trash bags away.”
The City Cleanup Corps has also supplied critical leadership and career-development opportunities at a time when job markets have stagnated.
“I oversee a group of guys and we get to go all over the city,” said supervisor Erica Catalano. “We have seen people’s joys and heartbreaks, but even when people are upset they are never made at us. People will literally bless us and thank us for coming out.”
“This is really wonderful for me and my team because we are born and raised here,” added Malik Saric. “We’re getting to explore and build relationships with neighborhoods. It’s also helped me and my team develop skills to build a career in gardening and landscaping.”
In addition to the City Cleanup Corps, a number of community organizations continue to contribute to the cleanup of Jackson Heights. These include the 34th Avenue Coalition, the Indian Merchants Association, and the Jackson Heights Beautification Group.
“We are helpful for the new plantings and the extension of our neighborhood’s greenway,” said Melissa Zavalaof the Jackson Heights Beautification Group. “These spaces require a lot of care so we appreciate all the help.”