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 V.17 No.2 | January 10 - 16, 2008 

Worker Files

Street Cleaners

Get to know the people responsible for mopping up your party mess

Frank Benavidez and Katrina Sanford clean the sidewalks of Central in the Downtown area.
Adrian Garcia
Frank Benavidez and Katrina Sanford clean the sidewalks of Central in the Downtown area.

The Worker Files is a new Alibi feature spotlighting people with interesting jobs in New Mexico. If you’ve got a noteworthy job or know someone who does, contact News Editor Marisa Demarco at (505) 346-0660 ext. 245.

There are probably a few ways to measure the alcoholic revelry on New Year's Eve: bar tabs, DWIs, number of cab rides, etc.

How about by the quantity of puke on the cement?

Before the final minutes of ’07, Adrian Garcia can recall only two puke cleanups, pretty low for a New Year's Eve. Garcia is the operations manager of the Downtown Action Team. Team members are the street cleaners, detailers and APD scouters of 85 blocks considered by the City of Albuquerque to be part of the Business Improvement District. That encompasses only the commerce areas between Coal and Lomas, and between First and 10th Streets. According to DAT’s website, the team gets its funding from membership dues and from business owners in the district.

It's a small crew; seven employees get calls on their walkie-talkies from Garcia about messes on the streets, people who need escorts from their offices after dark and overflowing tricentennial trash cans. All seven employees were on hand Dec. 31. "This year wasn't as bad as in the past," Garcia says. "It wasn't as trashy."

The workers, called "ambassadors," monitored the core areas of Downtown—Central, Gold and the Fourth Street walkway—on New Year's Eve. But the team can discern the relative rowdiness of any weekend evening by the cleanup effort, which starts at 6 a.m. the following day. "If the Downtown area is dirty and full of vomit, it seems like it was a more rowdy evening," Garcia says. "There will be times when there's blood, like there was a fight, but there was none of that this holiday—at least not Downtown."

The Downtown Action Team took the Jan. 1 holiday off, which left the primary party areas a little messier than usual for a day. Blood, human, dog and horse feces, vomit, cigarette butts and other trash are all part of the daily dealings for a Downtown Action Team member. And it takes serious motivation sometimes, says Jose Pacheco of the cleaning and hospitality teams, to walk over to a soiled spot of pavement and clean it up. It doesn't get any less gross, he says. Charles Aragon, another DAT staffer, says the smell doesn't wear on him as much anymore. "I think my nose has adjusted to our alleys."

Team members have the option of goggles and face masks. They always wear gloves, and they use chemicals and enzymes on the grosser materials to ensure they’re entirely removed from Downtown streets and that all germs are killed. "That way, when we do handle it, it's less dangerous to our health," Garcia says. DAT employees aren't formally trained in handling all hazardous materials, but they follow the protocol associated with handling syringes and waste. Still, he adds, there aren't any materials DAT won't touch. Garcia wouldn’t say how much a team member gets paid.

Cleaning up partiers' regrettable accidents and other detritus associated with a centralized urban area aren't the only jobs of a DAT staffer. Garcia says part of their work is hospitality. "It's likened to security, but we don't put ourselves in security situations. We're more the eyes and ears of the police department." For instance, if people are spotted drinking in an alley, the DAT employee won't approach them and tell them to leave. Instead, they'll call the two main on-foot Downtown patrol officers.

The team stays in contact with Downtown businesses. Garcia says most bars reported a decent crowd, slightly bigger than a normal weekend night, on New Year's Eve. He attributes the smaller than usual mess to a "more controlled" environment. "With as many roadblocks as there were, and it was pretty advertised that they were going to be doing DWI saturation, people were more aware," he says. About 56 manpower hours were spent picking up the trash left by patrons ringing in the new year.

All three team members say their job doesn't affect their attitude about holidays and partying. "I think New Year's should be celebrated," Garcia says. The work does change their perspective on the way people dispose of their garbage. Pacheco says he cringes when his friends want to take a leak in the alley when leaving clubs. Garcia feels annoyed when he sees people dropping their cigarette butts in the street. Downtown Action Team employees know they’ll be the ones cleaning those careless missteps up the next morning.

But every team member works on both the cleaning and the hospitality crews. With such a small staff, it'd be difficult for a worker to specialize. Why would anyone want to work early hours cleaning up disgusting messes? Aragon says he likes to feel he's making an immediate difference, that his work has significance. Pacheco says he gets more respect than he did with other gigs. "I love this job," Garcia says.

Call 764-2800 for cleaning or safety services.

 

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