Kids To Neighbors: Keep Our Blocks Clean!

Photo courtesy of Yuliya Chernova
Click to enlarge- Photo by Yuliya Chernova.

While the rest of us do nothing but complain, a bunch of local kids saw the garbage problem on their block and launched into a full-force cleanup and publicity campaign.

Twelve kids and eight parents spent last Saturday afternoon painting wooden boards into a colorful set of “No Littering” signs to place along East 14th Street between Avenue X and Gravesend Neck Road.

“We thought that pedestrians might pay more attention to handmade/kid-made signs urging them to keep our block clean, than to standard, city-issued warnings,” said Yuliya Chernova, the mother who organized the event. “We hoped that this would remind folks that this is not just a pavement, this is a place where local kids ride their bikes and scooters and play all the time.”

Chernova first got neighbors and their kids together to do a quick litter pickup, and was shocked to see how quickly it accumulates. They were looking for a nice arts-and-crafts activity for a sunny Saturday, and thought making signs with a purpose – and of benefit to everyone – would be a better lesson to children.

“Having kids work on these would also reinforce it in their own minds to keep their own and other streets clean,” she said. “If you put your effort into something, you’re more likely to care.”

Work isn’t done just yet, though. The colorful signs, which say things like “Stop Littering – Save the World”, “Don’t Trash the Earth” and “No Poop – No Pee – Please!”, are waiting to get a coat of sealant and permission from the city to put them on street post fixtures.

City law, though, forbids street sign poles from being used for anything other than city signage. They’re still prodding the city, but are also considering putting them on fences, in yards and at the edge of tree beds.

That’s not the end of the kids’ cleanup plans. They’ve committed to biweekly litter pickups, and their parents are organizing a block beautification campaign that includes planting flowers, posting curb-your-dog signs and installing plastic bag dispensers along the street. They’re raising money through, an online fundraising site that allows local groups to post project ideas and financial goals. For the block beautification, they’ve already raised $435 of their $616 goal. You can contribute here.

Chernova said the children’s enthusiasm for the project only continues to grow.

“Turns out that the event is coinciding with what many of them are studying in school around Earth Day,” she said. “Today one mom told me that her son was doing homework and pointed to a few words, saying: ‘We could use that for a sign!'”

The block’s parents are now brainstorming other outdoor or craft activities to do together and develop a sense of community. And the parents have so far been thankful for an outlet that gets them out of the house and their children away from video games.

“We spent about four hours outside, right on the sidewalk – and we enjoyed it!,” said Chernova. “One mom said: ‘I haven’t spent this much time outside in years!'”

You can view more photos of the kids and their signs at Chernova’s Flickr set.


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