invention helps city resolve sticky issue
GumBusters removes mess from Perth
BY AMISHA PADNANI
They were big. They
were black. And they were everywhere.
discarded chewing gum dotted the sidewalks of Perth Amboy's downtown
last week when Mayor Joseph Vas introduced his latest initiative:
"This is a new
invention and we jumped on it pretty quick," Vas said. For the
record, he is not a gum chewer.
"Gum has been a
problem since the beginning of time," he said.
machines, which resemble canister vacuum cleaners, use a combination
of environmentally safe chemicals, water, and steam to remove the
black blobs of gum.
The city purchased
two of them, to rid the stains that were defacing recently
installed, decorative brick pavers.
"Even though gum is
repulsive on any surface, it really was distracting," said Robert
McCoy, chief administrator of the city's Urban Enterprise Zone.
At first, McCoy
said, officials explored several other gum-removal applications but
always found a problem, such as unsafe chemicals or sprays that
would splash onto facades of surrounding businesses. When they found
the GumBusters, however, McCoy said they were immediately amazed.
"We were thrilled by
the fact that it's localized, environmentally safe, and in three to
five seconds the gum was removed with no trace remaining," he said.
According to Anthony
Mulé, Vice President of New York, and New Jersey-based GumBusters,
the GumBusters system is 100 percent effective in removing all
shapes and sizes of gum with a simple method. The gum is heated with
300-degree dry steam which is then mixed with a cleaning agent. With
a little pressure, a small brush at the end of the cleaning hose
will remove the stain. The best part, he said, is that the process
can be done without closing off streets or disrupting daily
The money for the
machines came from a grant from the Business Improvement District.
Vas emphasized that the project is part of his vision to beautify
the streets of Perth Amboy in hopes that it will "greatly improve
our downtown district and help to increase shopping in the area."
He said $13 million
has already been spent toward improvements with money from the urban
enterprise zone, a state program in which certain sections of town
are designated by the state to charge only half the 7 percent sales
tax on retail purchases. Half of the money collected is then
funneled back into the community to make general improvements to the
appearance of those areas.
The city also
received a grant to hire four college students who are home for the
summer to operate the machines. Each day, they clean about 100 yards
one of the workers, said he was excited to clean the streets because
he had seen a show on the Discovery Channel featuring the GumBusters
and was impressed by the machine's efficiency in removing gum.
"The gum is busted,
just as it says," said Dominguez, 21, who is studying pharmacy at
Rutgers University. "I thought it was pretty cool. I didn't know
they would use it over in Perth Amboy."
McCoy said he has
been walking the newly cleaned streets and that it's "incredible."
"It's wonderful to
see because you have the merchants coming out of their stores just
beaming," he said.
Who you gonna call when tennis fans gum up the U.S.
Open grounds with wads and wads of used (yuck!) chewing gum ?
It took the crew of Brad Fields, executive director of
GumBusters franchise A Limited Sticky Situation, more than 35
hours to rid the U.S. Open plaza of gum left by fans who
attended last year's 2-week event.
"There seemed to be a little bit more gum just outside
of the garbage cans on the grounds where I guess people
missed," Fields said. "But I've seen worse gum
YOUR MOUTH TO GUMBUSTER'S NOZZLE
August 8, 2001 -- CLEANING up gum is a sticky business, but
somebody has to do it. At the Arthur Ashe Stadium, that somebody is
Brad Fields, GumBuster. Since April, when the 31-year-old
businessman bought his gum-removal franchise, Fields has been
cleaning up - at least in New York and New Jersey.
a lot of gum," Fields said as he aimed the bristly nozzle of
his GumBuster gun at a blackened smudge, sprayed and
rubbed. Seconds later, all that remained on the pavers
was a cappuccino-like froth.
Bubblegum, sugarless, spearmint - to GumBusters they all wind
up the same, as sticky blackened spots on the landscape.
The only difference is that sometimes when the heat hits the
gum, "the smell wafts up, and you can tell if it's cinnamon,
grape or strawberry," Fields said.
Fields and his helper, 21-year-old Mikulas Viklocky, are
thrilled to be busting gum at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is
sprucing up for the U.S. Open on Aug. 25. It beats saying you're busting gum on 39th Street," said
Fields, who has degummed office buildings, sidewalks, movie theaters
and Harlem, during Bill Clinton's big reception. Lots of gum there.
"We did the Magic Johnson Theaters and it was everywhere,"
Fields said. "On the arm rests, the walls." Once the
pavers at the Arthur Ashe Stadium's entry are done, he said, the
GumBusters will move into the stadium and hit the seats.
Fields had his weirdest gum-busting experience on Seventh
Avenue, where a woman came up and asked him to get the gum off her
new shoes. Fields refused. We were busy," he explained.
"Plus, I didn't know what it would do to her Manolo Blahniks."
To Save Soles From A Sticky Situation
the sake of the reader, this article will not begin with “Who
ya gonna call?” or some other Ghostbusters parody. But
just like those fictional poltergeist pulverizers, Gumbusters of
New York provides a service that raises the quality of life for
thousands of people. With their equipment aimed at the sticky
offender, Brad Fields and his 10- person crew release a scorching
300- degree blast of steam and a bit of air pressure to send the
troublesome chicle to gum heaven. Fields is the executive director
of A Limited Sticky Situation, a Long Island City-based franchise of
Gumbusters, which boasts a record for assisting local businesses
such as restaurants and movie houses in vanquishing their gum
pollution problems. Despite the fact that the company began its
operations, just this April, the list of happy customers is
extensive and includes a number of McDonald’s franchises,
Clearview Cinemas, Jacoby Hospital and others.
DANIEL CUEVAS & MARK M. FOX
people see how easy and effective our method is, they
are sold immediately,” Fields said. The rumors about the
Gumbusters’ efficiency apparently have reached the United
States Tennis Association, which this year summoned
Gumbusters to clean up the world’s largest tennis
stadium in time for the U.S. Open. “It’s an honor to be a
part of preparing the stadium for the U.S. Open. This will be
my biggest project yet and I am ready for it,” Fields said.
gum beware! Brad Fields and his trusty GumCart are ready
to rid the streets of insightly dark spots. Gumbusters
are hard at work at their new site - Arthur Ashe Stadium
of New York was born when Fields observed the effect of
the GumCart on the rubber surfaces of New York City
buses during the presentation by the company to the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “We were so
impressed that we decided to buy franchise rights to
Gumbusters right there,” Fields recalled. “All it
took was five minutes of the presentation.” The most
interesting part about Gumbusters may be how they get
rid of the gum, especially after it has had several
years to become a dirty black spot on the
GumCart -- that is, the machine used to de-gum a small area--
produces high-temperature steam, with low air pressure added
to a non-toxic chemical cleaning agent, melting and dissolving
the gum. The steam is 98 percent air, allowing the GumCart to
only use about four to eight gallons of water a day. To finish
the job, the operator
the surface with a small brush at the end of the cleaning
hose, an attachment similar to that of a vacuum cleaner.
The entire process only takes a few seconds. According to
Fields, the GumCart is a self-contained, environmentally
unit that is extremely simple to maintain and rarely breaks
down. In addition, it is so easy to use, the people he hires
need no previous janitorial or any other sanitation
experience. “The concept of it is very simple,” Fields
said. “A newcomer can be out of there working on the first
day on the job.” Fields dreams to someday “gumbust”
Yankee Stadium and the New York Public Library. “No matter
how many trash cans the City pro-vides, gum will always
mysteriously appear wherever you go, and until that ends, I
will do my part by helping clean up New York, one piece at a
time,” Fields said. Fields and his crew continues to work in
the five boroughs, fighting the good fight for anyone who’s
ever sat down in a wad of gum and ruined their pants, grabbed
a handrail and gotten a handful of strawberry-flavored blob,
or stepped into a glob of the stuff, ruining an otherwise good
pair of footwear. Fields did not want to make pre-dictions,
but if the business’ success holds, he is planning to push
subdivisions into New Jersey, Westchester and even farther
Something Gumming Up The Works?
Who Ya Gonna Call?
|by David Simon, Assistant
|Brad Fields using the gumbuster to clean house at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
|| The small, sticky black spots that dot New York City sidewalks are not errant drops of tar. Nor are they patterns imbedded within the cement for aesthetic purposes.
The black and sometimes red or green spots are pieces of gum. After a good chew, some careless person simply spit out a piece. It was then walked on by tourists, residents, dogs and just about everything else.
Gum is not considered to be the Citys problem, according to Department of Sanitation spokesperson, John
Pampalone. There are no laws for gum removal and the DOS does not have any specific plans to deal with gum, he said. They are like cigarette butts in that if it is in front of your property, you should clean it up.
Traditionally, people would use high-pressure power washers to remove the gum. But these machines can be loud and with the recent water shortage, using them is not a possibility.
Brad Fields, the master franchisee in New York for
GumBusters, a Dutch Company that specializes in gum removal and colorful logos, may have the answer to the citys sticky problem. Gum Busters arrived in the United States in 1999.
| City Councilman John Liu, who represents Flushing, thinks that Fields may have the right idea. Certainly, the gum is extremely unsightly in Flushing and all over Queens, he said. I am looking into new technology to remove the gum and Id definitely be interested in what this company had to offer.
Fields, who opened his franchise at 53-01 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City last June, has gum-busted for the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum on the Upper East Side, the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem and Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing.
GumBusters also has an ongoing project with Penn Station to remove gum from the main terminal in midtown Manhattan. They will be de-gumming Carnegie Hall at the end of the summer.
Using a simple machine that mixes high-powered steam with a special environmentally-friendly cleaning solution, gum that was once a solid disc is emulsified and turned into a brownish goop that can be easily mopped up.
Cleaning up the neighborhood with a high-powered water blaster is not a new concept. The Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation has been doing to graffiti for years what Fields is doing to gum.
But is that organization concerned with gum? Not according to Peggy OKane, community liaison specialist for the group. There are heaps of other things that bother me, she said. Gum doesnt exactly move me too much.
Fields doesnt agree. If you walk down the street, there are literally millions and millions of pieces of gum, he said.
Fields business operates on several levels. His crew can be hired directly to do a cleaning job, they sub-franchise their name and equipment to another GumBuster or they can rent the equipment for individuals to use.
The cost for gumbusting varies depending on the concentration of gum in a given area, but the average is 35 cents a square foot with most jobs being completed within a day or two.
Its a simple concept for a serious social problem, Fields said.
For more information, call 866-U-GOT-GUM or check the Web at
Company Offers Solution to Chewing Gum On NYC Sidewalks
New York Times
not exactly an urban mystery. More a case of mass denial, or a lack
of anthropological curiosity. Whatever the reason, only some New
Yorkers, including, now, the mayor, know that the black blobs stuck
to pavements around the city are not part of the concrete mix, not
stray bits of asphalt, not hardened drips of roofing tar. No, the
splotches, some amoeba-shaped and some round as half dollars, are
pieces of discarded chewing gum.
little black dots on the sidewalk," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
called them in November during his regular radio program, lamenting
their ubiquity and confiding that he had always wondered what they
gum," he told his listeners. Twice, as if it were hard to
mayor urged property owners to turn this discovery into action.
"Hire a company to come and clean your sidewalk," he said.
it turns out, the available arsenal to battle the gum now includes a
new weapon: a solvent that vaporizes the splotches. Gumbusters of
New York, the company that deploys the mixture, has served about 300
clients, including the Statue of Liberty, since its founding three
years ago. Perhaps it's high time for all this attention, because
there is evidence that New York's hefty new cigarette tax may be
producing a city of even more gum chewers - and potential gum
a smear on the sidewalk is not crime in the streets. It's not an act
of terrorism. It's not a battered school system, a rising homeless
population, a buffeted economy or the specter of shrunken city
hardened gum underfoot is undeniably an urban hallmark. And of
course, the bigger and denser the city, the more the gum, which may
make New York the gum splotch capital of the world.
artifacts at a dig site, these splotches can be found where they
were abandoned. Many land outside restaurants, stores, subway
stations, subway cars and anyplace people have been standing in
line. Others, in a sign of good intentions, pile up near refuse
baskets on street corners.
knows? Among the millions of gum blobs on New York's 12,500 miles of
pavement may be a fragment from the era of Mayor Fiorello H. La
Guardia, who ran a campaign to reform gum litterers in 1939.
"Mayor's Gum Drive Off to Fast Start - Two Companies and a
Flood of Volunteers Join Up," read a headline in this newspaper
at the time.
one of those things that has become a fact of city life," said
Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Business Improvement
District. "I think, on a core level, most people are used to
speaking, New York may deserve all its abandoned gum. In an odd tale
that touches on the Alamo by way of Staten Island, it was here, in
the late 19th century, that the world's first chewing gum factory
was built. But if the city gave birth to modern chewing gum, it once
again has a few forces, not least a mayor, who want to take it off
New York Got Its Spots
chewing gum industry got its start in New York because chicle, a
rubbery substance produced by the tropical sapodilla tree, found its
way to Staten Island. It was carried here, as a chew, by General
Santa Anna, the Mexican dictator who prevailed at the battle of the
Alamo in 1836. Santa Anna came to Staten Island as an exile, after
he was defeated by Sam Houston and after Texas became a state. There
he met Thomas Adams, a local inventor.
1869, Adams tried, unsuccessfully, to make tires from Santa Anna's
stash of chicle, then gave it a chew himself and liked it better
than the paraffin-wax or spruce-resin chewing plugs that New Yorkers
were buying from pharmacists at the time. (Today's gums are made
mostly with a synthetic-polymer gum base.) By 1876, according to The
Encyclopedia of New York City, the inventor had opened Adams Sons
& Company on Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan, the first gum
factory. Its packages featured a drawing of City Hall and the slogan
"Adams' New York Chewing Gum, Snapping and Stretching."
Adams company, long a part of Pfizer and now slated to be sold to
Cadbury-Schweppes, dominated the gum business that grew up in the
early 20th century, making Chiclets, Tutti Frutti gumballs and other
brands. Gum spread throughout America, then throughout Europe, as
G.I.'s in both world wars enjoyed and distributed the gum supplied
in their rations.
also spread all over the sidewalks of New York. In a 1939 New York
Times article headlined "Bogged in Chewing Gum," a hotel
executive complained that "the city of New York may become
totally enveloped in refuse chewing gum in the course of time."
same year, Mayor La Guardia embarked on his public education
campaign against gum litterers. He pressured gum companies to print
warnings on their wrappers about proper gum disposal and announced a
search for a "catchy" advertising slogan for a cleanup.
His final choice? "Don't Gum Up the Works." As part of the
campaign, "some 20,000 wads were scraped from one spot on Times
Square alone," wrote Robert Hendrickson, author of "The
Great American Chewing Gum Book" (Stein & Day, 1976).
it continued in New York: a lot of gum spit out, a little gum
removed. And some gum immortalized. In 1972, a self-defined
"disposable artist" named Les Levine who lived on Mott
Street cast about 30 pieces of freshly chewed gum in gold. The
resulting works, called "Solid Gold Chewing Gum," were
shown at the Fischbach Gallery in Manhattan; the sculptures are a
comment about art, "about the making process," Mr. Levine
said in a recent interview.
days, discarded gum is practically part of the city's
infrastructure. "When you think about doing something special,
a nicer type of sidewalk or something," said Mr. Tompkins of
the Times Square BID, "you have to consider the gum
gum spots are found throughout the city, the problem is
understandably worse in more congested areas. The Grand Central
Partnership, another large business improvement district, struggles
daily against the litter in its gum-heavy neighborhood. "It's a
disgusting sight," said Alfred C. Cerullo III, president of the
it may be worse below street level. For a time in the 90's, the
Transit Authority set up targets at selected gum-encrusted stations
and invited passengers to hurl their gum at bull's-eyes instead of
dropping it on the ground. The program was discontinued because it
was not cost-effective.
subway riders are inured to the splotches. "It's so dirty, I
just block it out," said Eneas Soares, a Hunter College
student, pointing to the heavy gum deposits along the downtown
subway platform at 96th Street and Broadway.
assuming they know it's gum in the first place. "It's too much
to be chewing gum," said Lenora Jones, a retired customer
service representative, who sat nearby eyeing an unbroken line of
splotches along the platform's edge.
much, indeed. Americans chew about $2.8 billion worth of gum every
year, according to a report by Packaged Facts, a market research
company. Using Wrigley's 25-cent pack as a measure, that adds up to
about 56 billion pieces annually. And there's no reason to think
that New Yorkers chew less than their share. "As far as I can
tell, gum consumption is pretty uniform across the United
States," said Jim Echeandia, a Texas-based confectionery
city's recently increased cigarette tax, which raised the price of a
pack to about $7.50, may mean that New Yorkers will chew even more
as they try to reduce their smoking or quit. At the United Grocery
at 94th Street and Broadway, Anna Khan, whose family owns the store,
now orders six boxes of gum a week instead of the two boxes she
ordered before the tax took effect on July 1. "One customer, he
used to buy two packs of cigarettes a day," she said.
"Since the price went up, he buys five to six packs of gum a
Yorkers - unlike, say, the residents of Switzerland - are not famous
for their neatness. But it is unclear why depositing gum on the
ground became acceptable, especially given that it is officially
prohibited as littering or spitting under city regulations.
would be a good graduate student project," said Mr. Tompkins of
the Times Square BID, laughing. " 'The Rupturing of the Social
Contract With Respect to Gum Disposal.' "
reduction of subway graffiti got a big boost from new technology
that made it easier to clean the trains. For their part, gum makers
are trying to devise a gum that does not adhere to pavements.
are a number of encouraging developments, but no new products ready
for consumer testing," said Amy Chezem, a spokeswoman for the
National Association of Chewing Gum Manufacturers. The companies
also say they have made progress toward a gum base that breaks down
over time, but, she added, "The prospect is still a way
then, gum removal will remain a constant struggle. Sanitation crews
for the Grand Central Partnership routinely remove gum from news
boxes and phone booths in eastern Midtown. "They scrape it,
they use solutions," Mr. Cerullo said. "Every day, seven
days a week. It's an ongoing battle." Periodically, he also
hires power washers to remove gum stuck to the sidewalk.
Grand Central Terminal, three "degummers" - employees
wielding broom handles outfitted with razor-sharp blades - patrol
the concourse every night at 1 a.m. as part of the general cleanup.
The floor, made of Tennessee marble, resists nicking "and
allows the gum to come up," said Dan Brucker, a spokesman for
Metro-North Railroad, which operates Grand Central.
perhaps the organization taking the most focused aim at the problem
is a small Queens company called, appropriately, Gumbusters, headed
by Brad Fields, a trim 32-year-old entrepreneur with a low-key
manner and high aspirations.
far Gumbusters of New York, one of the American franchisees of a
Dutch company, has vaporized gum spots from 500,000 square feet of
the city, Mr. Fields said. But that, he knows, is just a tiny
clearing here in the petrified-gum forest, and the underbrush can
grow back fast. The new McDonald's at 42nd Street hired Gumbusters
last September, and needed it to return just weeks later.
nature of his work has turned Mr. Fields into something of a gum
anthropologist. "I walk with my head down now, like most New
Yorkers, but I do it for business knowledge," he said. He can
explain why some wads are huge ("Kids chew four pieces at a
time"), why some are just larger than average (probably bubble
gum), why some have tails (someone stepped on them when they were
fresh, pulling them along the street before they hardened), and how
long it takes for a pink, white or green confection to become a
grimy stain that stubbornly stays put ("I'd give it about 24
has cleaned gum from the sidewalks of Carnegie Hall, the sidewalks
of the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem and Arthur Ashe Stadium.
(Pavement cleaning is the duty of property owners, not the
Department of Sanitation.) In November, Mr. Fields degummed 100
square feet of pavement in City Hall Park to demonstrate his system
to the Parks Department.
Tai, who as chief of the department's Manhattan operations branch
arranged for the display, was noncommittal about the chance for any
Parks Department business. "I don't know what will come of
it," he said. "We don't have a lot of extra money in our
the same time, Mr. Fields demonstrated his company's
steam-and-solvent system at the Gumbusters headquarters in Long
Island City. With two of the company's five employees, he climbed
into a Gumbusters truck painted with smiley gobs of colorful gum. He
hopped out at a nearby corner and hooked up a small, portable "gumcart"
to a surprisingly quiet generator. "No point in trading gum
pollution for noise pollution," he said.
the three men, using a long brush attachment, handily evaporated 25
black blobs from the pavement before moving to another spot.
"Probably Juicy Fruit," Mr. Fields said, as one splotch
liquefied and dribbled away. "We can smell the gum sometimes.
The flavor wafts up."
low-pressure system, Mr. Fields added, uses less water than
high-pressure power-washing, which must be done at night when
pedestrians are absent.
prices depend upon gum density, but customers generally pay 35 cents
a square foot plus $18 a gallon for the patented solution. His
clients can buy their own gumcart from the company for $5,900, as
managers for Pennsylvania Station and the Statue of Liberty have