2004-05-12 / Editorials

Operation N.I.C.E. Is Win-Win Situation

By John J. Doherty
Operation N.I.C.E. Is Win-Win Situation

Operation N.I.C.E. Is Win-Win Situation

By John J. Doherty

New Yorkers work very hard and are always on the go—running our stores, rushing to and from our jobs, taking our children to school, going out to eat or just shopping for new sneakers. And we perform a lot of these activities on foot. In fact, it could be said that, in the course of their day New Yorkers get rather "up close and personal" with their city’s streets and sidewalks. And the condition of those streets and sidewalks is, to a large extent, up to all of us.

For instance, take the city’s cleanliness.

As much as the men and women of the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) try to keep New York City clean, our efforts alone are not enough to guarantee a clean city. Cleanliness is the result of the combined efforts of the Department, together with those of concerned residents, civic associations, volunteer groups, and committed local leaders. In other words, New York City is our home and it’s up to all of us to keep it clean.

Currently, our city is cleaner than it has been in over three decades. And although this represents a great improvement, progress is not uniform. I’ve always believed that complacence is the enemy of improvement. Consequently, I instructed my staff to identify those areas that could use a boost in their cleanliness and quality of life. These areas are now the focus of the Department’s Operation N.I.C.E. (Neighborhood Intensive Cleanup Effort). This program is being implemented in 18 of the city’s 59 community board districts–nine in Brooklyn, four in Manhattan, three in the Bronx and two in Queens.

Operation N.I.C.E. is not an enforcement initiative. Rather, it stresses cooperation with other city agencies and the establishment of local partnerships with communities. Communities, in turn, are encouraged to participate in a number of activities that promote cleanliness. Here’s a sampling of some of those efforts:

Outreach Efforts: DSNY distributes informational posters and flyers to educate neighborhoods on how to keep streets and sidewalks clean. Residents and merchants help spread the anti-litter message by placing these posters and flyers in community centers and store windows. Schools also become involved by participating in the Department’s Golden Apple Award Program. And other city agencies get involved in both spreading the word and in cleaning up their assigned properties.

Adopt-A-Basket Program: Individual merchants or property owners volunteer to become responsible for a DSNY litter basket. The Department provides participants with plastic bags to place inside litter baskets. Once full, the bags are tied and replaced with clean bags by participants, thus preventing the baskets from overflowing. This program has had a clear and positive impact in keeping a busy street corner looking neater. Participants receive a certificate of appreciation for their community service, which they can display.

Sponsor a Basket Program: This year, close to a dozen participants have sponsored "high-end" baskets, specially designed to prevent household and commercial garbage from being placed in them, thereby preventing them from overflowing. As a result, 436 new litter baskets will appear on local commercial strips. In return for their sponsorship and the community service it provides, baskets will bear the sponsor’s name or company logo.

The Doe Fund: This non-profit organization assists people going through hard financial times by giving them a job and a chance to get back on their feet. Property owners, business associations or local leaders hire the Doe Fund to sweep sidewalks and the mandated 18 inches into the street and "adopt" baskets. Because the Doe Fund is a non-profit organization, it is affordable for local groups to hire cleaners.

Neighborhood Self-Help Initiatives: Merchants associations hire cleaning companies or enlist neighborhood volunteers to sweep sidewalks, remove graffiti and adopt litter baskets. Local groups are encouraged to engage in neighborhood cleanups. DSNY offers short-term loans of the necessary cleaning tools.

Remember: The easiest way to keep your neighborhood clean is not to litter in the first place.

By complying with DSNY laws, we help improve our own quality of life and avoid fines. For store owners, a clean community is a key economic issue. It means more shoppers and visitors, who prefer to spend their money in cleaner and more attractive neighborhoods. A clean community makes excellent business sense.

Keeping our community clean is a win-win situation. And a clean community depends on all of us becoming partners in a cleaner New York.

For more information, call 311, or visit www.nyc.gov/sanitation.

John J. Doherty is Ccommissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation.

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