I first “met” Jeff Orlick over Twitter. We connected online when I asked him for a press release for Viva La Comida, a festival he organizes to celebrate the food and culture of the city.
But I officially met Jeff in person about a week or two after that by coincidence. I was taking notes at Diversity Plaza. He was using a long umbrella to pick trash out of the ornamental planters that get treated like garbage bins. That’s when I first heard about the Queens Qustodian, a character he created to clean up the neighborhood’s streets.
My colleague Julia Alsop and I followed Jeff as he climbed highway signs, scaled street poles and used his car trunk as a step stool to get closer to the illegal street signs that are plastered all around his neighborhood. The signs advertise dubious services to buy junk cars or homes with cash payments, and they clutter the local streets.
But he doesn’t stop there. He has cleaned up abandoned newspaper stands and slapped stickers that say “You park like an asshole” on illegally parked cars that are dangers to both oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
And we even saw him conduct an experiment to break the lock of an old bicycle that had been chained to a street pole and abandoned. He had heard that you could use a car jack to force open the lock and — voila — it worked, much to his surprise. He carried the bike to a trash can and just like that, the sidewalk became just a little cleaner.
Would you ever do anything like this to clean up your neighborhood? Check out my video and let me know what you think.