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Jackson Heights chosen as site for city street cleaning program

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Though a business improvement district may be some ways off, merchants and traffic congestion activists in Jackson Heights are celebrating the neighborhood's selection for a pilot street sweeping program.

Clean Streets, offered through the city's Small Business Services Administration, will provide two full-time workers to sweep and clean garbage from streets and sidewalks in a five-block area bounded by 73rd Street on the west, 74th Street on the east, 37th Avenue on the north and Roosevelt Avenue on the south. Jackson Heights was one of five neighborhoods out of 90 applicants selected for the new program, said Will Sweeney, head of the Western Jackson Heights Alliance, who helped file the application.

Sweeney said the program will be a boon to a business district plagued with litter but not yet ready for a BID. He said some street cleanup already takes place through the John Doe Fund a program funded by Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) and City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) provides work rehabilitation for former convicts and other people who are re-entering society.

But the Clean Streets program is not a free ride. The city fully funds the workers for the first year, but the neighborhood must contribute 25 percent of the cost for the second year and 100 percent of the cost for the third year. Sweeney and his associate Brian Pu-Folkes said they will be able to raise the funds roughly $100,000 a year once the city stops contributing money, they estimate.

"We think that's totally manageable," he said, noting he believes small business owners will get on board with the program. "We hope that once they see the benefit of that, we hope they'll be interested in a business improvement district."

Jackson Heights is already served by street cleaning services from the Doe Fund, a citywide program sponsored locally by Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) and Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) that employs formerly homeless people and parolees. But Sweeney said these services are available only a few hours each week.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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