Volume 81, Number 17 | September 22 - 28, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photos by Judith Callet

Anthony Cali sawing up a fallen tree on W. Houston St. after Tropical Storm Irene.

Volunteer takes quality of life to heart by doing what he can

By Khiara Ortiz

He’s the Village’s volunteer handyman, caretaker and, most recently, lumberjack.

For more than 25 years, Anthony Cali has swept through the streets of the Village tending to anything that needs fixing, picking up garbage and keeping the drains clean while never asking for anything but a “Thank you.” He grew up in the West Village on Thompson St. and his family lineage there dates back 100 years.

Cali started out as a collector but had an “epiphany” to give back to the community after hearing a sermon on the radio by Dr. Kelly Andrew. Quoting Henry David Thoreau, Andrew said, “to improve the quality of life is the biggest attainment.”

From then on, Cali set himself to making his neighborhood a “cleaner, safer, healthier and more beautiful place.”

“If I do anything, I have to do it myself,” said Cali. “There’s not one street in Soho and the West Village that I have not cleaned.” He also donates to Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

After Tropical Storm Irene’s brief visit to New York City, Cali was ready to take action when an old tree at W. Houston and MacDougal Sts. fell, blocking car and pedestrian traffic. Knowing that the Parks Department had a full agenda, Cali took it upon himself to break up all the branches with his bare hands, and used his old saw to cut the larger branches and split tree trunk.

When the Parks Department employees came by with their electric saw to cut down the remaining trunk, the men were in awe of Cali’s work and thanked him for his help.

“They asked me where my equipment was, and I just showed them my hands,” said Cali.

Once the job was completed, the shape of a heart was found in the stump.

The stump had the shape of a heart inside it.

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