East Harlem merchants campaign would use homeless to clean up trash-strewn stretch of filthy E. 125th St.

An East Harlem merchants group has hatched a radical plan for easing a persistent garbage problem along the filthiest portion of bustling E. 125th St. — paying the homeless to clean it up.

The New Harlem East Merchants Association, which was created only this year, has started raising money for the bootstraps plan, which will involve some of the hundreds of homeless men and women who arrive on the sketchy portion Harlem’s main street every day on the M35 bus from the shelter on Wards Island.

"We do need the help," said Kwanza Smith, executive director of the merchants group. "The East Side (of E. 125th St.) has a reputation of being very run down and dirty."

The $75,000 project would be a joint initiative between the merchants association and the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless, which provides the homeless with training and job placement. "This will take care of two problems: cleanliness and providing options for the homeless," Smith said.

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