SoHo BID fills in gaps to clean up trash in neighborhood
Cheikh Dieng doesn’t need a gym these days. He says the pileup of trash in SoHo keeps him in shape.
“I work 10 hours a day, I’m working I’m on my feet...I’m picking up the garbage, sometimes it’s heavy, it’s more than 50 pounds,” Dieng told News 12 from his post in SoHo.
The Senegal native who calls Washington Heights home has joyfully been cleaning for the SoHo Business Improvement District since 2001. More than 111,000 people visit SoHo by subway daily. David Goldberg is the CEO of Streetplus, the company hired by the BID to clean up after all of those visitors.
“A business improvement district is an entity that’s created by property owners to self-tax themselves to create an environment where they can use the money internally in the district to provide services like cleaning, maintenance, security and hospitality,” Goldberg said.
There are 76 business improvement districts in New York City – and some say the city is in need of some extra help. Native New Yorker Thania Louis says she’s seen some creepy trash situations since the pandemic hit.
“Sometimes I’ll see rats scurrying to the trash...that’s the grossest thing I’ve seen,” Louis said. “I feel like ever since the pandemic there’s been like, you know people have lost their jobs, maybe there haven’t been enough sanitation workers that are able to pick it up.”
She’s not far off. The New York City Department of Sanitation says funding was cut in recent years but has been fully restored. They told News 12 in a statement, “Mayor Adams is COMMITTED to cleanliness and quality of life, and as such, our cleaning programs are fully funded. In fact, we’ve even EXPANDED our cleaning functions since the pandemic, cleaning more areas, more often.”
That correlates with 311 data. Trash complaints almost doubled across New York City from around 18,000 to more than 34,000 between 2020 and 2021. In 2023 so far, there have been about 29,000 complaints. The Department of Sanitation told News 12 that an increase in 311 complaints doesn’t necessarily correlate to an increase in trash. Regardless, Dieng doesn’t mind cleaning coffee cups and mixed paper on the street. He says without garbage, he wouldn’t have a job.
“That’s why we have this job – the mess,” Dieng said. “If we don’t have the mess, we would be doing something different.”
Dieng says that one of his favorite parts of the job is getting to know the residents of SoHo. During our interview, he said “hi” to multiple people.