By Karen Frantz
City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) thought Union Turnpike was in pretty bad shape. People were complaining about litter on the streets and garbage cans were overflowing, so he decided to allocate $30,000 to keep the commercial heart of Fresh Meadows looking clean.
The organization that will undertake the cleanup is the Doe Fund, a nonprofit that employees homeless and formerly incarcerated people to foster independence and self-sufficiency. Workers with the organization already clean many other city streets, including some in Kew Gardens and Briarwood in Gennaro’s district.
But the organization is a new addition to Union Turnpike.
Gennaro praised the program at a meeting with Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and small business leaders at the Sly Fox Inn Aug. 1. Doe Fund workers will help make “Union Turnpike as clean as Main Street Disneyland,” he said.
The Doe Fund will remove litter from sidewalks and gutters along the turnpike between 188th Street and Utopia Parkway three times a week, which will be in addition to regular city sanitation services.
They will also be starting additional green initiatives, including picking up waste cooking oil from restaurants for recycling into biodiesel as well as mulching and maintenance of tree pits along the sidewalk. The mulch will also be green, made from recycled tree limbs left over from pruning by the city Parks Department.
Gennaro quipped that the Doe Fund, “long known as the ‘men in blue,’ is becoming the ‘men in green.’”
Ray Damm, director of the fund’s community improvement project, said he is thankful for the partnership with the city and that the programs in Briarwood and Kew Gardens graduated 31 men to independent living over the last two years.
Quinn also praised the Doe Fund workers for overcoming obstacles to put their lives back on track.
“To see you guys out there, I’ve heard from so many people how it reminds them that they can overcome their problems, too,” she said. “So you’re not just keeping us clean and green, you’re inspiring us every day.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.