The Cleanup Corps: Beautifying Queensbridge and So Much More

by Urban Upbound’s staff members

Within the span of a few months, Queensbridge Houses, which is home to thousands of public housing families, has begun to make leaps in their revitalization efforts with a ‘boots on the ground’ approach and by employing their own. The residents.

One way the city responded to communities that have been greatly impacted by the pandemic and recent historic storms was the launch of the City Cleanup Corps. Urban Upbound is a partner in this program, employing 20 local residents to beautify and clean their community. Our corps maintains the streets within and around Queensbridge, which is the largest public housing development in the country. “I know the community appreciates the work we do because they tell me”, said Phoebe Maye, who is a resident herself and supervises the crew. “We clean areas where there’s high traffic, like walkways where kids commute to school.”

Urban Upbound not only employs these residents but also supports them with supplemental training that will lead to more employment opportunities when the program ends next year. Corps members also receive one-on-one financial counseling sessions at Urban Upbound, where they set goals in key areas such as savings, debt reduction, and fixing their credit. One member, Loretta Davis, said she opened an account with the Urban Upbound Federal Credit Union and learned about ways to improve her credit score. “I appreciate the financial training at UU because I want to buy a house one day,” said Loretta.

So far, the program has exceeded expectations and left a greater impression on residents. Annie Davis, a member of the cleaning corps and an active member of the Tenant’s Association said she not only enjoys beautifying the community but changing attitudes. “I was raised to treat my community well,” said Annie. “I talk to the residents and am honest with them when I see them throw trash on the floor. I talk to them and next time, they call my name over and say, ‘Look, I got a trash bag or I’m throwing this away’.”

Many of the members of the Urban Upbound cleaning corps had previous interactions with us, some more recently than others. Richard Byrd, said he was getting his taxes prepared by us earlier in the year and just so happened to catch the glimpse of a flier at one of our offices. “I saw the flier posted there for this job,” said Richard. “There’s a lot of good networking here.”

The Urban Upbound cleanup crew all echoed similar sentiments about their work. They were immensely proud. “I grew up in this community and left for a bit, then came back”, said a teary-eyed Loretta. “I feel good about cleaning up my community. When I talk to the residents, I tell them about the events we are having or the services. I’m a people person. This is more than just cleaning, it’s outreach and about doing good.”

While Urban Upbound cleaning corps spearheads the neighborhood’s revitalization efforts, Urban Upbound staff at large provide individual financial counseling, tax prep, credit building, and job search & placement services. You can support our cause by donating here and you can learn more about our impact and work by following us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube) and subscribing to our newsletter.