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Jamaica community organizers host cleanup and tree lighting ceremony

Photo courtesy of SEQ Cleanup

The Southeast Queens Cleanup Initiative and the Jamaica Center BID have teamed up to make downtown Jamaica a little cleaner and brighter this holiday season. 

Members of the organizations hosted a socially distanced cleanup on Sunday, Dec. 13, deploying 20 volunteers to pick up litter from 161st Street to 163rd Street between Jamaica Avenue and 89th Street. The NYC Sanitation Department helped with removal of the waste collected by the volunteers. 

“Our side streets are usually the first impressions shoppers have when arriving to shop on Jamaica Avenue because it is where many parking garages are located, so we wanted to target this area with a deep clean,” said Jennifer Furioli, executive director of JBID. 

To undertake this task, the BID sought out the partnership of the newly formed and grassroots organization, SEQ Cleanup Initiative, which was founded by southeast Queens resident Antoinette “DJ Nett” Lawson. 

Members of the Southeast Queens Cleanup Initiative pick up litter along the street. Photo courtesy of SEQ Cleanup.

Nett formed SEQ Cleanup in July of this year in response to declining sanitation conditions she observed in her community due to citywide budget cuts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Downtown Jamaica was my stomping grounds growing up … it’s where I shopped, caught school buses and hung out with friends,” Nett said. “And after a successful first year growing SEQ Cleanup, I am thankful to be doing our end of the year wrap up on Jamaica Ave.” 

Following the district cleanup, Cultural Collaborative Jamaica (CCJ), a nonprofit organization that unites artists and local businesses and helps to strengthen community and economic development, hosted its annual Holidays on the Avenue (HOTA) tree lighting ceremony, and a community toy giveaway at King Manor Museum in Rufus King Park. 

Families picked up a toy for their children at the museum through registration at Holiday on the Ave. 

The tree lighting ceremony was scaled down significantly this year due to the pandemic with reservation-only participation, temperature checks, masks and social distancing. 

Both SEQ Cleanup and another community nonprofit, Key Fundamentals, along with the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct, were in attendance for the 2020 Holidays on the Avenue event through toy solicitation and volunteer support. 

“Holidays on the Avenue (HOTA) is one of my favorite longstanding programs,” said Tyra Emerson, executive director of CCJ. “Presenting HOTA has been a challenge in 2020 with COVID for CCJ, but with the help of our 103rd Precinct’s Community Affairs and several dedicated community organizations, namely SEQ Cleanup and Key Fundamentals, we have been able to light the tree, distribute gifts and show the children of southeast Queens our community’s resilient spirit.”

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