Richmond Hill residents, civic leaders and elected officials gathered in front of Molbegott Hardware Store Tuesday morning to thank state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) for providing state funding for the Doe Fund’s clean-up of Liberty Avenue.
While Addabbo served as councilman of the area, he allocated $74,000 in City Council funds to the Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing and Able Program, which employs homeless and recently incarcerated individuals to provide supplemental street cleaning services along Liberty Avenue between 104th Street and Lefferts Boulevard and in the Rockaways on Beach 116th Street and Rockaway Boulevard.
This year, however, both Addabbo and Democratic District Leader Frank Gulluscio, who is running for the 32nd District City Council seat, have criticized Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) for cutting Doe funding to $38,000, which would only provide for cleaning in the Rockaways.
“This community needs more resources, not less,” Gulluscio said. “We cannot afford to lose the economy and business along Liberty Avenue.”
In addition to working with a slashed member items budget, Ulrich said he was told Addabbo would fund the Liberty Avenue portion of the project, while he would fund the Rockaways.
“I chose to continue Doe funding in the Rockaways because I’m responsible for it there,” Ulrich said, “knowing that Addabbo would do his side.”
Although Addabbo initially allocated $10,000 of his member funds to the project, he said he has secured an additional $37,000 to provide street cleaning services that would begin in November.
The senator said it is common for councilmembers to pick up the projects of their predecessors, particularly services that residents have demanded.
“The Department of Sanitation does an outstanding job of keeping our streets clean but, with cuts to supplemental collection, the Doe fund plays an important role in this community,” Addabbo said. “I’m disappointed the city funding was cut because we could have expanded this successful program that benefits the community.”
Merchants say the Doe fund workers not only rid the area of litter, but also perform snow removal duties twice a day, five days a week, alleviate minor flooding problems and help prevent store owners from receiving hefty tickets from the sanitation department.
Marty Molbegott, who has owned his hardware store for 50 years, said Doe fund ing is vital to the community. “With the holiday season coming, people don’t want to shop on an avenue that’s dirty,” he said.