A Sweeping Success

The sun was bright, the air was warm for an October day, and the mood was festive for this year’s Fall Civic Sweep, the Park Slope Civic Council’s annual communitywide cleanup.

“This is my neighborhood,” said Jim Purvis as he was sweeping up along Fifth Avenue. “Anything to get out outside and make it look a little nicer. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that.”

“We collected a lot of litter, painted over a lot of graffiti, mulched a lot of tree pits, and planted so many daffodil bulbs that we ran out before the end of the Sweep,” said Candace Woodward, a Civic Council trustee and a main organizer of the Sweep.

This year’s event was notable because it was held on a Sunday rather than a Saturday. This made for a nice little “hub of activity” around the Civic Council’s check-in table in front of M.S. 51 on Fifth Avenue, said Woodward. “On one side was the Park Slope Farmers Market, on the other was a group of kids from the school and their parents, trying to raise funds for a class trip to London. We all helped each other, raising funds and buying food at the stalls.”

The annual Harvest Festival, in nearby Washington Park, also created more bustle along the busy avenue and around the Civic Sweep’s starting point.

The first Civic Sweep took place in 2001, after a Civic Council forum on local garbage issues, said former president Bernard Graham. The event continues to attract a wide array of neighbors and community groups of all ages. “It’s great to see kids wear their [‘I made Park Slope cleaner and greener today’] stickers” that they receive after signing in, said Woodward. “They’re proud of that sticker, plus it gets them involved in their community.”

One community group that has been a regular presence over the last five years of the Sweep is the G-Men, teenagers from the Greenwood Baptist Church on Seventh Avenue who “get together to enrich our lives and the lives of our community, give back as best we can,” said Tahj, a first-time Sweep-er.

Another G-Man, Adam, has joined in the Sweep since the group first helped. “It’s just interesting,” he said, “I never realized how dirty things are until I clean them. It’s really cool to go out with your friends and spend a little time to make things nicer.” Matt Sudol, an organizer of the G-Men, added: “These kids are growing up knowing that they have to care for their community, that they can’t just expect to show up and have everything done for them. [They become] a good role model for others.”

Electronics recycling was also a big part of this year’s Fall Civic Sweep. All told, Park Slopers brought 2,643 pounds’ worth of old components to the truck provided by 1-800 Mr. Rubbish, a Civic Sweep sponsor, for recycling. “It was a great drive,” said the company’s Greg Murjani. “I look forward to many more with the Civic Council. I am always glad to give back to our community.”

Other sponsors of this year’s Fall Civic Sweep were: New York Methodist Hospital, a SuperSponsor; Brown Harris Stevens; Garfield Realty; Ideal Properties Group; Leopoldi Hardware, the Park Slope Copy Center; the Park Slope 5th Avenue BID; the Park Slope Food Coop; Tarzian Hardware; tb shaw realty; and Warren Lewis Realty.

“We all love this neighborhood, which is so beautiful,” Woodward said. “Let’s try to keep it litter- and graffiti-free, and help make our trees healthier.”

The next Civic Sweep will be in the spring, scheduled for April. For more information, head to parkslopeciviccouncil.org/civic-sweep.

— Written and photographed by David Herman



Here are some of the people who made this event happen:

  • Principal Lenore Berner and custodians Carmine and Salem at M.S. 51.
  • Craig Hammerman, who arranged for “no parking on Sunday” signs at site.
  • Sarah Murphy, who sent press releases.
  • Susan Fox of Park Slope Parents and Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors, who e-mailed Civic Sweep info to their memberships.
  • David Herman, who designed the poster.
  • John Casson, Josh Levy, and Rebecca Welch, who supplied refreshments.
  • Ann Herpel, a general coordinator at the Park Slope Food Coop, who organized members working at the Sweep.
  • Judith Lief, who helped with daffodil bulbs.
  • Michael Cairl, Lauri Schindler, Gilly Youner, Cathy Sokil, David Alquist, David Herman, Sarah Murphy, Sheila Hanks, Alexa Halsall, and Nellie Isaacson, who staffed our tables.
  • Leopoldi Hardware, Tarzian Hardware, and Shannon Nursery, who discounted or donated supplies.
  • Raymond of Mr. Rubbish, who collected electronics for recycling.
  • Roadify, who described how to get real-time information about open parking spots.
  • Vincent Cross and Good Company, our bluegrass band, who supplied entertainment.
  • Of course, all our volunteers who helped make Park Slope cleaner and greener.

— Candace Woodward is the chief organizer of the Civic Sweep.

from the October 2010 Civic News