As SoHo evolved from a manufacturing district into a mixed-use community of artists, residents and retailers over the second half of the 20th century, local residents and stakeholders have organized a variety of efforts to ensure local streets were clean and tidy, often taking things into their own hands.
Dubbed “SoHo’s Mr. Clean” by a 1992 New York Times article, Anthony Iannacone volunteered his time and efforts toward clearing his block of Sullivan Street between Broome and Spring of its garbage, graffiti, and grime:
Every day, Anthony Iannacone gathers his utensils and scrambles out to the street, his feet making scrabbly sounds as he tramps down the stairs. This is Sullivan Street, between Broome and Spring, in SoHo. Rolling one of his big barrels on wheels, working a whisk broom and a dust pan on a stick with practiced authority, he picks up every crumpled candy wrapper, every squashed-out cigarette butt, every pile of dog excrement, until the street is clean. Perfectly clean.
He is thorough. If there is fresh graffiti, he attacks it with his solvents and paints. If any outdoor lightbulbs on the buildings have burned out, he replaces them. Then, and only then, is he content.
“Everything has to be perfect,” he explained. “I leave when all the litter is gone and everything’s just right. Listen, I take pride in where I live.”-“SoHo’s Mr. Clean; A One-Man Anti-Grime Unit,” New York Times, February 19, 1992
Mr. Iannacone embodied the spirit and conviction of New York City residents taking ownership of their built environment in pursuit of a better world for their neighbors.
In 2014 the SoHo Broadway Initiative hired ACE (founded by SoHo resident Henry Buhl) to staff its Clean Team, which provides supplemental sanitation services to the Soho Broadway district 363 days a year from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. The Clean Team sweeps the sidewalks, empties trash and recycling receptacles, removes graffiti and power-washes the corners along Broadway between Houston Street and canal as well as the intersecting cross-street blocks to Crosby and Mercer. During fiscal year 2022, the Clean Team removed over 44,000 bags of garbage, cleaned up over 8,000 incidents of graffiti, and serviced 31 trash receptacles year-round. The Clean Team also provides snow removal services in the winter, which include removing snow from crosswalks, bus stops, fire hydrants and curb extensions.
From 2018 to 2021, the Initiative’s Clean Team added additional service on Crosby and Mercer Streets via funding from prior Council Member Margaret Chin’s office. We are pleased to announced the Clean Team has just relaunched sanitation services on Crosby and Mercer Streets (7 days a week, 8 hours a day) made possible via the generous support of Council Member Marte, the Crosby Street Association, and UNIQLO’s sponsorship of our street light banner program.
The Initiative’s daily sanitation service is the latest in a long history of efforts by community members taking pride organizing efforts to maintain SoHo’s cleanliness for those who live in, work in, or visit the neighborhood.
photo: Jim Estrin, New York Times