New Yorker’s have become accustomed to the endless stream of advertisements, ranging from the dozens of menus stuffed under our door to the flashing billboards that illuminate Times Square. Everyone would prefer a cleaner city, but we never take the time to clean up a mess if it isn’t our own. William Marquardt has started a movement to improve the cleanliness and quality of life by fighting the intentional defacing of property on the Upper East Side for advertising purposes, graffiti, and garbage maintenance.
Calling his movement “Improve NYC,” Marquardt has been working to better the visual esthetic between East 72nd and East 96th streets, considering it the “laboratory for proving that a cleaner New York City is possible.”
He has partnered with for other community members to decrease the amount of graffiti, stickers, business cards placed by locksmiths, the distribution of menus at the entrances at the entrances of walk-up apartments, and flyers taped to lampposts. One of their main partnerships has been with the organization CIVITAS, a company that has been dedicated to improving the neighborhood quality of life in the Upper East Side and East Harlem since 1981.
Marquardt was raised in Pasadena, California by his two creative parents, and has always identified as an artist in someway despite never working in art professionally. “I am very good an looking at an area and deciding what needs to be done, needs to be fixed, or cleaned up to make our community look a bit more spiffy,” he explained. “I’ve never been directly involved with design work, but if something is out of order I hone in on the details and get it done.”
After moving to New York in 1992 he started noticing the accumulation of flyers taped to lampposts, usually advertising different moving companies. “On a whim one day I decided to take a handful of them down, hoping to make my block look a little better,” he explained. “Then only after a few days, I noticed they were back again. I attempted to remove them several times before realizing that it was going to take an organized effort to get rid of these flyers completely.”
Although the flyers were the start of his effort, Marquardt has since extended his effort to fight anything that was disrupting the visual esthetic of the Upper East Side. He started attending meetings of the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, and began working with their committee dedicated to getting rid of unattended, and overflowing trash cans.
As a result of his collaboration with President Betty Cooper Wallerstein, they have seen drastic changes in the cleanliness of trashcans around the neighborhood. “My membership in the E. 79th Street Association played a key role in broadening the mission of Improve NYC,” he said
Marquardt and his team members are on the ground, constantly eradicating any situation that threatens the visual esthetic of the neighborhood. They have seen success in reporting graffiti and general deterioration of mailboxes directly to the United States Postal Service. “The USPS has repainted or replaced the boxes. As a result today there is only one box in the entire area from 72nd St. to 96th street with unremoved graffiti,” he explained.
You can reach out to Marquardt to help his efforts in improving the cleanliness of New York City streets. They are working to grow large enough to help benefit more neighborhood, the way they have cleaned up the Upper Ease Side.
“My immediate goal has been to prove that you can improve these neighborhoods. Improve NYC has been able to prove that it can be done,” Marquardt said. “It takes a lot of perseverance, and I hope to show people that having a clean living space will improve their spirits and overall quality of life.”
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