by Rebecca Henely
September 16, 2010
The grime and trash on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights has long frustrated residents and politicians in the area, but with state Sen. Jose Peralta’s (D-Jackson Heights) assistance, some familiar faces — and uniforms — will return to clean up the place.
On Sept. 7, Peralta presented The Doe Fund, an organization dedicated to empowering the homeless, with a $250,000 check paid through discretionary funds for Doe’s “men in blue” to spruce up parts of Roosevelt Avenue, Astoria Boulevard, Northern Boulevard and LeFrak City four days a week.
Under the program, the sidewalks will be cleaned, trash will be picked up, sidewalk cracks and tree pits will be cleared, posters and graffiti from street furniture will be removed, newspaper distribution boxes will be aligned and snow will be removed.
“It’s going to be a win-win for everybody,” Peralta said.
Peralta said participants in Doe’s Ready, Willing & Able program, which gives formerly homeless and incarcerated individuals an opportunity to get sober and hold regular jobs, will clean up Roosevelt Avenue from 69th to 111th streets, Astoria Boulevard from 82nd to 111th streets, Northern Boulevard from 69th to 111th streets and the area surrounding LeFrak City.
He said this project was one of the first things he wanted to do with discretionary funds, and these areas were chosen because of resident complaints, especially about Roosevelt Avenue, which had once been cleaned for a year by Doe.
Residents have been saying “Roosevelt Avenue is so dirty. It was so much better when the Doe fund was around for that year,” Peralta said.
He also said Doe men cleaning the area will bring more sanitation services to the area without putting a burden on residents.
“We already pay enough taxes,” Peralta said.
Ray Damm, director of community improvement for Doe, said participants will be working on those areas from Friday through Monday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Salaries for participants begin at $7.40 an hour through a tax-free training stipend, which will be increased after six months. Work has already started on Roosevelt Avenue and around LeFrak City, and work on Northern and Astoria boulevards will begin in six to eight weeks.
Peralta said he has been working with the program for more than six years, ever since he spotted some participants — dressed in the bright blue pants, shirts and baseball caps that make up the program’s uniform — cleaning Park Avenue in Manhattan and asked them about the program. Since then he has worked as an assemblyman and a senator to bring the program to his district.
“It allows them to stay off the streets,” Peralta said. “They’re no longer going to be homeless.”
Damm said participants begin by working at one of Doe’s residential facilities for 30 days, then they go into the street-cleaning program, which they remain in until they secure full-time employment and, if they have substance abuse problems, sobriety. About 150 miles of New York City streets are cleaned each day through the program.
“It’s extremely effective. We’ve helped over 4,000 individuals since we started,” Damm said.