The cleanup of every Philly block has started. Here’s what to expect

The cleanup started this week in the River Wards neighborhoods. North Philly is next, followed by West, Southwest and South Philly.

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Philadelphia’s Streets Department demonstrate their mechanical street and sidewalk sweepers

Philadelphia’s Streets Department demonstrated their mechanical street and sidewalk sweepers at 30th and Gordon streets on Aug. 2, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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An effort to clean every city block in Philadelphia is underway.

Mayor Cherelle Parker’s 13-week, interdepartmental cleanup kicked off Monday in the Frankford neighborhood. By Wednesday, crews had already cleaned over 500 blocks, cited more than 200 noncompliant properties and cleaned over 100 vacant lots, officials said.

“There’s been such a great deal of frustration in our city,” Parker said at a press event Wednesday. “This is how we’re going to make Philadelphians believe in our city again.”

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The effort is one of the first major moves by Parker’s new Office of Clean and Green Initiatives and a tangible step in her campaign to make Philly the “cleanest, greenest big city” in the U.S. 

What does the cleanup consist of?

Over the course of the next nearly three months, staff from 12 city departments will converge on each city block, officials say.

They’ll sweep up trash and haul away illegally dumped debris, remove graffiti, fill potholes, cite nuisance businesses and abandoned properties, and remove abandoned cars.

“We’re doing a whole thing in terms of quality of life issues that affect the citizens of Philadelphia,” said Carlton Williams, leader of the Office of Clean and Green Initiatives and a former Streets commissioner.

The cleanup will cover around 18,000 blocks, including 129 commercial corridors, Axios reported.

When will it hit my block?

Cleanups will begin on each block the day after curbside trash pickup.

You can find out when it’ll be your block’s turn on an online map on the new Office of Clean and Green Initiatives’ website.

Crews have already completed cleanups across much of the River Wards neighborhoods. North Philly is scheduled for cleaning this month.

West Philly, Southwest Philly, South Philly, parts of Northwest Philly and Center City are on the schedule for July. Northeast and most of Northwest Philly are scheduled for August.

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The entire cleaning project will conclude by Aug. 26.

Will it happen again?

Mayor Parker said Wednesday that if her proposed budget passes City Council this month, the new cleaning efforts could become “standard operating procedure.”

“Philadelphia, I commit to you … this is not a one-off,” she said. “This is your mayor’s commitment to delivering on that promise — because you deserve it.”

After the 13-week clean-slate cleanup, long-term maintenance would be up to residential cleanup crews assigned to each councilmanic district. Parker included $1.5 million for these crews in the budget she proposed this spring. Officials have not yet specified how frequently these crews would clean each block, but Williams said his office wants it to happen more than four times a year.

“It doesn’t stop now,” he said. “This is the beginning of a lot to come.”

Anti-litter and anti-dumping advocates have criticized the city’s past approach to cleaning up trash and debris as merely a Band-Aid. They’ve pushed for a bigger investment in efforts to prevent litter and dumping, including education, more affordable and legal disposal options for small haulers and stronger enforcement of anti-dumping laws.

This summer, sanitation enforcement officers will follow the cleanup crews to start investigations or issue warnings and citations, Williams said.

Parker’s proposed budget also includes money for additional illegal dumping surveillance cameras and expansion of sanitation enforcement staff.

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