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'Billy Goats' help clean up Chinatown's streets

By Caroline Berg in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-24 10:48

A herd of grazing goats is useful for clearing a field of brush, or, in the case of New York's Chinatown, a fleet of "Billy Goats" can go miles to help suck up street litter.

"In less than a year, we have collected more than 3.5 million pounds of trash, which is the equivalent to 3,181 horses, 8.5 million mooncakes, or 40,000 times the weight of Council Member Margaret Chin," Chinatown Business Improvement District (BID) executive director Wellington Chen said at a press conference yesterday.

Chen was joined by NYC Council Member Chin and Lower East Side BID Deputy Executive Director Tim Laughlin to announce new additions to the joint BID street cleaning technology fleet, including two large "Billy Goat" vacuum vehicles, a high-power debris blower and a new power-washing truck.

"We're not just unveiling a new arsenal of tools today, we are also celebrating a new phase," Chen said about the cleaning effort.

When the team started last October in new, bright yellow uniforms, Hurricane Sandy hit and sent the initiative into a tailspin. Nevertheless, Chen said the team rallied and continues to move forward.

The lower Manhattan City Council District 1 that Chin represents will provide a $52,000 capital investment for community beautification in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, which will support the purchase of a watering truck for trees and flowers shared by the Lower East Side and Chinatown BIDs.

"The investment in the watering truck allows us to continue to beautify the neighborhood and make sure that small merchants continue to attract traffic and customers," Laughlin said. "This investment in our strong and growing partnership [with Chinatown BID] allows us to really keep our neighborhoods more beautiful and safe."

For two months now, the Chinatown BID has been employing a heavy-power watering truck, separate from the one Chin's council will fund, which can hold 1,000 gallons of water and clean 2.5 storefronts at a time.

"The number one problem [on Chinatown streets] is the staining from restaurant grease," Chen told China Daily. "Garbage trucks take the garbage from the kitchens and they compress it. Juice comes out and the grease destroys the asphalt, creates puddles and creates odor."

Chen said street cleaners begin their work at midnight and work through 8am daily, and have focused so far on the main Chinatown streets.. The truck uses hot water, which Chen said is the key to removing stains, and t refuels at fire hydrants.

"The cleaning is very labor intensive and slow," Chen said.

Chinatown BID may only clean 10 storefronts a night from the 1,800 buildings Chen said the district oversees.

"This is only the beginning of building up our infrastructure," Chen said. "We will make Chinatown shine."

Chen said Chinatown BID is also looking into incorporating a number of BigBelly solar compactors to help deal with odor and trash. BigBelly Solar is a US company that provides solar-powered garbage compacters with a storage capacity of 567 liters per bin for use in public spaces such as parks, beaches, amusement parks and universities.

"Council Member Chin is always encouraging us to go green," Chen said. "This [BID cleanup] team will sweep, shovel, plow, blow, vacuum, power wash, wipe away, steam, and scrape anything standing in our way of keeping Chinatown clean."  

'Billy Goats' help clean up Chinatown's streets

Members of the Chinatown Business Improvement District (BID) street cleanup crew demonstrated the Billy Goat vacuum outside the BID office yesterday. Caroline Berg / China Daily

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