HARLEM, Manhattan (PIX11) — After years of complaints, Harlem residents rolled up their sleeves on Sunday to clean up the trash on streets and sidewalks.
It started with one woman who grew tired of seeing trash and litter in her neighborhood. Now it’s become a source of inspiration for others in the community.
Imani Cruz, who organized the efforts, looks at it as something that needs to be done. After years of living in Harlem and seeing all kinds of trash everywhere but in the bins where they belong, she wanted to make a difference.
“I want to live here, and so I want to commit my time to [make] this place special for all of us,” Cruz said.
Some friends, family and others learned she was organizing a community cleanup on Lenox Avenue and West 132nd Street after seeing her on PIX11 News. They showed up to help, too. James Pierre is one of the people who saw the story.
“I’m one of those guys that’s always saying ‘I’ve got to do something about it,'” Pierre said. “So this was an opportunity to do something about it.”
Some in the neighborhood say they have been asking the city to bring in extra bins and send sanitation crews more often, but their calls have gone unanswered.
“I’ve been fighting for clean streets in Harlem for a long time and writing letters and emails,” resident Wynelle Welch said.
The city’s Sanitation Department provided some supplies. Adrian Kondratowicz showed volunteers what should be tossed and what should be recycled. The local artist founded The Trash Project in 2008 as a way to give back; he helps community groups throughout the city organize cleanups.
“When people clean up, it’s like a punishment and a chore and we want to change that. That’s the power of art, to change people’s perception,” he said.