Clean Up Rockaway Freeway
Mayor Mike was so disgusted by what he saw as his motorcade of jet-black SUVs traveled west, that he made an anonymous phone call to 311 to report a “seriously littered condition,” Vito A. Turso, Department of Sanitation Deputy Commissioner told The Wave.
Doherty quickly toured the area and dispatched a team of 40 sanitation workers and 10 individuals serving community service sentences.
The crew started at Regina Avenue in Far Rockaway on January 4 and continued cleaning this week. By lunchtime on Tuesday they had reached Beach 44 Street.
Men feverishly swept and raked up trash, or used litter picker sticks – quickly filling up garbage cans, which were deposited into one of three waiting sanitation trucks. A vacuum truck, mechanical broom and tractor weed cutter were also brought in to do the heavier work. Other Sanitation vehicles blocked traffic under the freeway to shield workers from traffic.
Sanitation spokesperson Kathy Dawkins described the effort as “intensive.” Turso said the 3-week project, which will continue to Beach 108 Street, should be completed by February 1.
The last time Rockaway Freeway got a head-to-toe cleaning was during the Giuliani administration. Jonathan Gaska, Community Board 14 District Manager, said that after nearly a decade of lobbying – countless meetings, and written and verbal complaints – the first ever massive cleaning took place. The undertaking was significant enough that a press conference was held.
That was about five years ago, and, as anyone who travels the freeway or parallel roadways such as Edgemere Avenue knows well, the filth had piled up again. Adding to the problem is the shoddy cyclone fencing that warbles under the subway el in many sections. Turso described the rusty and rickety fences as “a litter trap for blowing debris.” He said Department of Sanitation is in talks with the Department of Transportation regarding their removal or replacement.
A major problem with keeping the area clean, Turso said, is the overlapping jurisdiction of city agencies and privately owned land in the area. Maria Termini, Assistant Community Affairs Commissioner, said Sanitation is planning outreach in Rockaway.
“The idea is to get people to do their part,” she said.
The last time Bloomberg visited Rockaway – for the November opening of the combined firehouse/EMS facility on Beach 49 Street – he was whisked in and out by helicopter.