By Lisa Kava
OneBlock, an organization comprised of volunteers who “adopt” one Upper West Side block to clean twice weekly, has grown almost overnight. The group was founded on August 24th by Upper West Sider Jake Russell, who wanted to create positive change in the neighborhood and noticed he was stepping over garbage regularly.
Word spread quickly as enthusiasm for the idea became contagious. OneBlock grew from 70 volunteers covering 60 blocks on August 28th to 280 volunteers covering 120 blocks on September 2nd, according to Russell, who allows more than one volunteer to claim the same block. Approximately 100 of the adopted blocks fall within the radius between West 70th to West 96th Street from Central Park West to Riverside Drive.
On Sunday August 31st, Russell held OneBlock’s first group clean up. The event was a success. Thirty volunteers met at the Northeast corner of Broadway and 73rd Street at 9 a.m. and divided into two teams; one team traveled up Broadway and one team up Amsterdam picking up trash. Volunteers wore green t-shirts and hats (the color green is a theme of OneBlock) and carried trash grabbers. Russell’s goal for the morning was to clean trash up to 83rd Street but many volunteers stayed on and continued to 88th Street. “It took about an hour and a half and the streets were pristine” said Russell. “People stopped us and asked what we were doing. Everyone was thankful and supportive.”
Russell is encouraged by the immediate positive response to his idea. He expected interest but did not anticipate how quickly the group would grow. “I am not surprised to find so many people who want to help this community but I am surprised at the speed of it all,” Russell told West Side Rag in a phone interview.
Russell is hoping to cover as many blocks on the Upper West Side as possible with volunteers. Future plans include potentially incorporating into a 5013c nonprofit organization. OneBlock t-shirts are in the works.
Russell launched a GoFundMe on September 2nd to fundraise for 20,000 trash bags and 300 t-shirts. With the financial support of real estate broker and OneBlock volunteer Ann Cutbill Lenane of Douglas Elliman, Russell has hired a van with a three person crew to travel on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues and Broadway “bagging the trash that is in the can, placing a new bag in the can, and repeating that process as the bags get close to full.” The van will travel between 73rd Street and 96th Street on Amsterdam and Broadway and between 73rd Street and 83rd Street on Columbus Avenue.
To volunteer for OneBlock fill out and submit this form.