Mayor Cherelle Parker sets citywide cleaning program in motion: 'We can get this done together'

This week, the City of Philadelphia launched its 13-week citywide cleaning program. The Office of Clean and Green Initiatives is collaborating with various departments to address chronic, quality-of-life issues related to litter, illegal dumping, graffiti, abandoned vehicles, vacant lots and nuisance properties.

Mayor Cherelle Parker said the program’s goal is to clean every neighborhood block by block from June 3 to August 26.

During a press showcase, Mayor Parker said in front of city crews, "Let me hear you all say one Philly, a united city. Don’t let anybody divide us. We can get this done together."

Director Carlton Williams of the Office of Clean and Green Initiatives said they’re already seeing progress from the last couple of days.

"We started the journey of cleaning every block in the city of Philadelphia," said Williams. "L&I is here. They cited 212 properties already in just two days. CLIP is here. They cleaned over 124 lots already. They removed 111 blocks full of graffiti. Sanitation cleaned over 525 blocks so far this year."

More than a dozen government agencies are involved in the program, including the Commerce Department’s Taking Care of Business, Police Department’s Neighborhood Services Unit, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Philadelphia Water Department, the Philadelphia Parking Authority and more.

"To see that all the agencies are coming together, we’re all aligned with the same goal of cleaning Philadelphia up and making it a better greener city," said Aaron Kirkland of the Philadelphia Water Department."

The city is using its fleet of equipment from backpack blowers, to weed whackers and water flush trucks to get the job done and even deploying new technology.

"It’s a fully electric pure vacuum street sweeper," said Tyler Slaman of Northeast Sweepers. "100 percent electric. There’s no other machine out there of this size that can handle a full day’s shift. There’s probably seven of them in the country, so far. We believe that Philadelphia will be the first on the East Coast to own this machine. You save about $100 a day on diesel fuel in comparison to the electric cost."

The nonprofit Circular Philadelphia has been following the City’s clean and green initiative through a critical lens. The Director of Policy and Engagement, Nic Esposito, was the former Zero Waste and Litter Director under former Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration.

"So, at Circular Philadelphia, we’ve advocated for proactive and systemic solutions to the city’s waste, litter and quality of life issues," said Esposito. "Graffiti, waste, litter, weeds they’re going to come back as soon as they’re taken away if you don’t have systemic solutions and systems set up to actually make the real change that’s going to sustain that."

Gerald Pickett of the Future Track program said his team is cleaning up alleyways in Philadelphia as part of the cleaning and greening program. Pickett, a convicted felon, said it’s an opportunity to grow a career and give back to the city that he doesn’t take for granted.

"People like myself, who, without these programs, would never have an opportunity like this," said Pickett. "This is a career that I’m definitely sticking with because, first and foremost, I want to make myself proud, my mother proud, you know, my child and everything that comes along with this. This is a positive, definitely positive."