Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
May 20, 1995 | Marni McEntee Daily News Staff Writer


The California Environmental Project, known for cleaning up the canyons around Los Angeles, is launching a litter-abatement campaign in the concrete canyons of New York City.

With the support of entertainer Bette Midler and other corporate sponsors, the Glendale-based CEP has established a new division, The Manhattan Restoration Project.

To get the project off the ground, CEP Executive Director Scott Mathes has become bi-coastal, setting up an East Coast office, hobnobbing with local environmental groups and hiring a staff.

Mathes, who started the California Environmental Project in 1989 by picking up garbage as he hiked alone in Southern California, said the cross-country move is a big step.

“I’m a mountain man, and to be stuck in the middle of this city is a little unnerving,” Mathes said.

“As I have gotten here and seen some natural areas in the state, there’s an enormous potential for outreach and education to these people – especially those locked in the concrete jungle who need areas to escape to.”

Mathes and CEP program director Jeff Gantman decided to take their show on the road after Midler, who has supported the group’s California Adopt-A-Canyon program for four years, moved to New York and called Mathes to urge him to help take care of that city’s litter problem.

It’s not that New Yorkers are any messier than the folks at home, Mathes said. But a group apparently does not exist that specifically targets litter cleanup.

“It’s a niche that hasn’t been dealt with that seriously. In that sense we’re trying to fill that niche and provide service that will take care of it,” Mathes said.

Midler was able to get Wenner Media Inc., which publishes Rolling Stone magazine,to donate office space in its building, Wenner spokeswoman Cathy O’Brien said.

The staff of the Manhattan Restoration Project will start its war on trash in three of that borough’s parks – part of 27,000 acres of developed parkland in the city’s five boroughs.

For the City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation, which faces the same tight budget as its West Coast counterparts, the imported group is a welcome addition.

“There’s plenty to do out here and we don’t discriminate by geography,” spokesman Parke Spencer said.

Even the New York environmental group charged with restoring a park on the top of the California group’s list doesn’t feel slighted by the outsiders.

“There’s such a great need in New York City. Our city financial situation and budget cuts have been so severe that all areas of public operations need help,” said Winston Dong, executive director of the Riverside Park Fund.

Mathes said the group eventually will expand to other sites around New York, including the Adirondack Mountains.

In the meantime, the California Environmental Project will continue its cleanups here, Mathes said.

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