City Council: Restore the

NYC Cleanup Initiative!

Who We Are

We are a coalition of community cleanup groups who believe all New York City residents deserve to have clean neighborhoods. and hope you will join our cause. In the summer of 2020, grassroots community cleanup groups began popping up all over NYC to address the sudden build up of litter on our streets. Many of these groups are unfunded and made up of private citizens, and we've come together to advocate for the services we need, share resources and support community cleanup efforts across the city. The outpouring of support for our neighborhoods with this volunteering effort is inspiring. However, we need our vital city services to be fully funded in the upcoming FY22 budget.

What is the

NYC Cleanup Initiative?

The NYC Cleanup Initiative began in 2015 to promotes cleaner streets and neighborhoods in NYC. This initiative has historically had a direct impact on the cleanliness and quality of life in our neighborhoods. It provides each City Council district with an allocation to fund cleaning services, such as: litter collection, supplemental cleaning services, graffiti removal, and adding additional litter baskets and/or litter basket collection. Each City Council member is responsible for deciding the allocation of funding in their district, which helps ensure each community's unique needs are met. Together with other community groups we are calling on the City Council to restore much needed funding to the NYC Cleanup Initiative and the Department of Sanitation budget so that we can have clean streets.

What is City Council

Discretionary Spending?

Each year, the New York City Council awards discretionary funds to nonprofit organizations to meet local needs and fill gaps in City agency services. Through the discretionary funding process, each individual Council Member receives a designated amount of money through different initiatives to be used at the Member’s discretion to meet local needs in their district. The amount of money designated for each initiative is determined by various factors, including local needs, the Member’s request, and other considerations. Allocations of Council discretionary funding are fully disclosed at the time the budget is adopted in June and updated periodically to reflect changes.

Background about

previous budget cuts

In FY21, due to funding shortfalls, the New York City Council cut the NYC Cleanup Initiative by nearly 40%! This cut coincided with major cutbacks to the NYC Dept. of Sanitation services and spikes in outdoor gatherings and dining. The end result has been extremely dirty conditions in neighborhoods around the city. In response to the deluge of litter build up, a coalition of local organizations is calling on the Speaker and Council to restore funding to the NYC Cleanup Initiative. Restoring funding to FY20 levels will mean cleaner sidewalks, less overflowing garbage bins, and the overall conditions that New Yorkers need to feel comfortable and safe in their neighborhoods. Please join us by signing onto our letter to the Speaker and Council, calling them to continue their streak of leadership by addressing this litter crisis.

Letter to Speaker Corey Johnson & City Council from Community-Based Organizations

Hon. Corey Johnson

Speaker, New York City Council

224 W. 30th Street, Suite 1206

New York, NY 10001

Re: Restoration of NYC Cleanup Initiative in FY22 Budget

Dear Speaker Johnson,

Thank you for your leadership throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and your ongoing commitment to the residents of NYC. We recognize all that you and the Council are doing for our communities, and understand the difficult decisions that had to be made over the past year. We write to you as community organizations, businesses, and residents of NYC, who are concerned with the cleanliness of our communities.

We are writing to respectfully request that the NYC Council restore the NYC Cleanup Initiative to FY20 levels.This initiative is critical for Council Members to address the unsanitary living conditions and explosive growth in sidewalk and street debris that have occurred as a result of the pandemic and FY21 budget cuts. These conditions are no longer a temporary side effect of the pandemic but a growing state of emergency impacting the morale, quality of life and the health and safety of NYC residents.

The pandemic brought about a shift in the way we use our outdoor spaces and highlighted their importance to the physical and mental well-being of New Yorkers. As weather warmed last spring, residents congregated and utilized city sidewalks and streets at an unprecedented level. This growth in sidewalk traffic coincided with FY21’s drastic $106M budget cuts to the Department of Sanitation Budget. These factors led to a deluge of street litter and overflowing litter baskets, often in major commercial areas where businesses are struggling for survival. The situation has escalated beyond a superficial eyesore and resulted in unsanitary and dangerous conditions, with increases in complaints of rodents and needles in neighborhoods throughout our city. In fact, March, 2021, recorded the highest level of 311 complaints for rodents, dirty conditions, and sidewalk litter of any March on NYC’s open data records (dating back to 2010).

While efforts to restore DSNY funding seem likely to succeed, and the “Cleanup Corps” initiative will be a help, talks of restoring the core initiative that has kept local sidewalks clean and safe for the past six years have been conspicuously absent. The NYC Cleanup Initiative is the only consistent presence addressing sidewalk litter and regular maintenance of litter baskets in the city. As the infrastructure is already in place, it can be immediately scaled to meet the current need.

The NYC Cleanup Initiative is low-cost and extremely effective. The Cleanup Initiative was started by the Council in FY15 to promote cleaner streets in NYC through street sweeping, litter pick up, and graffiti removal. Since then it has become one the most universally beloved initiatives by Council Members and New Yorkers alike. Before suffering major cuts in FY21, the FY20 NYC Cleanup Initiative had a budget of $13.26M, which totaled less than 0.03% of Schedule C and allotted each Council Member $260K in discretionary spending to use for unique sanitation needs of their district. This relatively small initiative had a disproportionately positive impact on the daily quality of life of millions of New Yorkers. In addition to tangibly improving conditions across five boroughs, this initiative has provided life-changing employment opportunities to many individuals who are overcoming homelessness, at a time when homelessness is at the ‘greatest levels since the great depression era.’1

We understand the difficult financial position the City faced last spring, as well as the uncertainty that resulted from the pandemic. However, the $5M cut to the NYC Cleanup Initiative in FY21 drastically reduced its impact and limited many organizations in their ability to provide services. Furthermore, the cut to this initiative was disproportionate to cuts to the rest of the Council’s Expense Budget. The Council’s Expense Budget was cut by 17% in FY21, while the NYC Cleanup Initiative was cut by almost 40%.

While the recent passage of the $1.9 trillion relief package and the swift administration of vaccines makes us optimistic for the future, these same factors will lead to more outdoor gathering and business patronage. These are positive outcomes, but they will contribute to even further increases in the already untenable street litter conditions.

We are sincerely grateful for the Speaker’s and Council’s leadership over this past year which have undoubtedly kept the city from facing even more difficult conditions. Tragic and unprecedented circumstances have led to difficult decision making, and your hard work and diligent care for your communities have not gone unnoticed. We ask you to continue this streak of leadership by restoring funding to the NYC Cleanup Initiative to help us keep our neighborhoods clean and safe.



Signed by the following organizations:

Please join us in signing this letter to restore funding

Clean streets are happy streets. Thank you for your support!