John Provetto can seem like a one-man mission when it comes to fighting litter and graffiti in his Country Club neighborhood.
Now, he is going to have a lot more time to pursue it, with his retirement after 40+ years as first a bus driver and later a high-level manager with New York Bus Service and the MTA.
He is well known for his cleaning up streets, walls and buildings around his Country Club home and in Throggs Neck, where he often fills in the gaps for established street cleaning services like those run by elected officials or government agencies. His cleaning work mostly runs to the overpass at Layton and Fairfax avenues, along the service road of Bruckner Expressway, to near Country Club Road, he said.
“You have got to try to take care of your community because it is your home,” said Provetto. “It is not just the block you live on, it is your neighborhood. And yes, there are some people that care more, and maybe I do care more, but that is a good thing.”
He makes sure that the Layton Avenue overpass is free of graffiti, weeds, and debris left by others – his two biggest nemesis in fighting litter are cigarette butts and losing lottery tickets.
“I subscribe to the Broken Windows theory,” he said, citing an idea that was central to former Mayor Rudy Giulani’s crime fighting strategy of taken care of smaller violations before larger crimes start to occur.
“If a neighborhood looks seedy, it will become seedy, and graffiti is part of that seediness,” he said.
Provetto will also remain busy running Cop Shot, an organization that former New York Bus Service chairman Ed Arrigoni asked him to run when he was considering leaving his managerial post at the Bus Service for the NYPD back in the early 1980s.
“He said ‘I really want you to stay,’ and then moved on to tell him about the program he was thinking of creating that ultimately became Cop Shot. From its inception in 1984, Cop Shot has been providing a $10,000 bounty to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone who shoots – or shoots at – a New York City police officer.
The program has netted 24 shooters since 1984, he said.
He ultimately was not able to join the police force after he lost a leg in 1982 when an out-of-control car slammed into him while he was helping another motorist in an accident on the New England Thruway.
“I jumped to avoid the crash,” he said with self-humor. “I learned to jump higher.”