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Posted on Friday November 3, 2023 by

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The Changing Environments and Responsibilities of Ambassadors

Aaron Perri, Vice President of Strategic Growth

John Koch, Central Division Vice President

The world of urban place management is constantly changing, and our industry relies on evolution and collaboration to succeed. Every year, we look forward to the International Downtown Association’s (IDA) Annual Meeting to come together with our peers and work toward creating better public spaces.

The 69th Annual IDA Conference took place in early October, where many members of our Block by Block (BBB) management team attended, led sessions and connected with customers, potential customers and our many friends in the field.

John Koch, Central Division Vice President, and Aaron Perri, Vice President of Strategic Growth, led sessions focused on Ambassador operations. John presented on “The Changing Environment of the Ambassador,” and Aaron joined leaders from Visit Knoxville and Nashville Downtown Partnership (NDP) to panel “The Evolution of Ambassador Programs Since the Pandemic.”


The Changing Environment of the Ambassador

A DVI Ambassador smiles in front of a dinosaur skeleton during a sponsored trip to the Museum of Science and History.

In the session titled “The Changing Environment of the Ambassador,” John discussed factors that influence the daily work of Ambassadors like wages, technology, mechanical equipment and other environmental elements.

John highlighted incentives BBB utilizes to attract and retain Ambassadors. He presented the Three “M’s” of Incentivizing Ambassadors: Motivational, Meaningful and Monetary Incentives.

Motivational incentives help Ambassadors feel the importance of their work as a vital resource to their community. According to John, these incentives can include “making Ambassadors part of the problem-solving process, including them in strategy conversations and inviting them to district events with the customer.”

Downtown Vision Inc. (DVI) is one of our operations that regularly uses motivational incentives. DVI provides tickets and allows time for the Ambassador Team to experience tourist destinations for fun, team-bonding experiences that help make them experts on what to recommend to visitors who come to the district. Recently, the team went to the Museum of Science and History where they explored a local attraction they may later recommend to a visitor while bonding as a team.

DVI Ambassadors line up for their monthly community-sponsored lunch.

Continuing to make Ambassadors feel valued, BBB believes in providing meaningful incentives, like goody bags from district businesses, food truck lunches, or even gift cards for team members’ Thanksgiving dinners. Monthly, DVI community partners provide lunch or dinner to Ambassadors to show them that the community appreciates them and their work. Most recently, in mid-October, lunch was provided by First Baptist Church as the Team celebrated birthdays and Ambassador of the month.

Finally, of course, there are the monetary incentives. Beyond traditional wages or bonuses, through community partnerships in select areas, BBB has been able to provide unique benefits for our teams, like annual bus passes or the first and last month’s rent for an Ambassador living in the areas we serve.

Ensuring your team is happy is essential to retaining high-value employees. By providing incentives like these, Ambassadors feel valued and appreciated. An employee who feels valued and appreciated is an employee who is likely to stay.


Evolution of Ambassador Programs Since the Pandemic

Derreck Hughes, Vice President of Operations, moderated Aaron’s session on the changes in service operations since the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. As the pandemic changed the local landscape of districts, new ideas were necessary to keep districts not just afloat but also thriving when there were noticeably fewer workers and tourists in the district.

K-Town Connect Ambassador Chase with members of the local community.

During the session, Derreck discussed sourcing new sponsors, unique partnerships and collaborators to expand and deploy street-level services. This is a concept we have seen activated in  Knoxville and Nashville, providing funds needed to implement BBB-operated Ambassador Programs to enhance public perceptions that encourage users to return to the districts.

Downtown Knoxville, K-Town Connect

Kim Bumpas, Visit Knoxville President, was essential to establishing the K-Town Connect Program. This program was created with the goal of enhancing Downtown Knoxville’s visitor and tourist experience while making it the place to host conventions. She was able to not only secure financing from the Convention and Visitors Bureau but also from both the City and County to fully fund the program.

The K-Town Connect Ambassador Program launched in May 2022, providing highly visible hospitality and quality of life services in Downtown Knoxville. After a year of successful service delivery, further interest was garnered, and the University of Tennessee (UT) signed on as a sponsoring agent. This additional sponsorship expanded K-Town Connect onto Cumberland Avenue, a main commercial thoroughfare on UT’s campus.

Nashville Downtown Partnership

Tom Turner, NDP President, introduced two ways his organization sought expanded funding for Clean and Safe Services in Downtown Nashville – one of the Nation’s fastest-growing cities.

NDP uses the Business Development Fund (BDF) which applies a 0.25% sales tax on certain goods and services sold within the downtown central business district. The BDF funds initiatives that enhance cleaning and public safety in the district. Since its launch, the BDF tax has enabled NDP to expand Clean and Safe Services and fund special security and traffic management detail within the downtown.

Through a collaborative sponsoring effort with the Music City Center, NDP has further expanded Clean and Safe Services to Lower Broadway and areas immediately adjacent to the convention center, locations that have seen a rapid influx of new development.

Innovative efforts like these can increase a district’s presence while also deepening a connection with and increasing relevance within the heart of the community.

Block by Block

An SF Travel Ambassador takes a photo for a couple.

For BBB, diversifying funding partners and expanding services into other realms outside of traditional place management boundaries will be key to maintaining vibrant, clean and safe streets into the future. BBB deploys a variety of programs across the country, including the expansion of Ambassador services to public sectors like parks and transit systems. We’ve also seen an increased interest in city-wide programs like those we operate in Louisville and San Francisco where services are not exclusive to one specific district boundary.

“Ambassadors are being utilized in other city segments outside of traditional downtowns,” Aaron said. “Parks and recreation agencies, public transit systems, visitors’ bureaus and even college campuses are all finding new ways to deploy Ambassador Programs.”

With more than 30 years of providing unique Ambassador programs for customers across the country, BBB has the experience and knowledge it takes to create one-of-a-kind, tailor-made service deployment programs that meet and exceed the changing needs of our cities.

We’ve seen a trend in many epicenters across the country where their needs have drastically changed over the last three years. As such, our Ambassador Programs have adapted.

For organizations like San Francisco (SF) Travel, which focuses on maximizing tourism and user experience in the city, recovering after COVID meant emphasizing hospitality. BBB launched the SF Travel Welcome Ambassador Program in the fall of 2021.

Welcome Ambassadors are experts on all things San Francisco. They’ve been known to answer questions in a variety of languages for non-English speaking tourists, snap photos of families from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf and even show the way to destinations by hopping on trolleys with direction-seeking tourists for that exceptional hospitality experience.

We often receive praise from tourists about their great experiences with our SF Travel team, like this praise from Shivangi P:

“Ambassador Emily at Ghirardelli Square not only went out of her way to drop us off at the cable car station, but she also went above and beyond to give us recommendations for other interesting places to visit during the rest of our stay in SF. I wanted to appreciate her for her help and thank you for setting up posts throughout the city to help us tourists!”

A Greenway Ambassador operates the Rose Kennedy Greenway Carousel.

BBB also services parks and recreation agencies, like the Rose Kennedy Greenway Park in Boston, MA. Greenway Ambassadors provide traditional cleaning, landscaping and snow removal services, but they also staff the park’s unique Trillium Beer Garden and Carousel amenities. Who knew operating a carousel could be an Ambassador job?

Our Ambassador services are flexible and cater to meet program demands, even as they change over time. Another non-traditional partnership that has expanded the realm of Ambassador programming is our partnership with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which began in 2017.

MBTA Transit Ambassadors are stationed throughout the transit system to help travelers with directions, ticket purchasing and real-time travel information. These friendly team members also help operations during special events, system outages and service disruptions, ensuring the best possible service to MBTA customers during what can be stressful situations.

BBB is excited for the future of Ambassadors services as it continues to evolve and expand into new and unchartered territory. If you think expanded Ambassador services could benefit you or your stakeholders, please contact Aaron today! (

Posted on Tuesday September 26, 2023 by Insider Look

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Bay Area Support Provides a World of Difference

Block by Block (BBB) prides itself on being a leader in the industry, serving more downtown districts and public spaces than any other competitor in the field. Part of what sets us apart is our dedication to the people we hire and the services we provide for our customers. This dedication can be seen in two individuals and the positions we have created specifically for our California Bay Area customers: Zori Nevarez as Regional Recruitment Coordinator and Bob Martins as Regional Maintenance Mechanic.

Zori and Bob are both exceptional individuals in their own rights, since even before they came to where they are now at BBB. In these roles, they provide customers with the best possible service entirely unique to BBB.

Zori Nevarez, Regional Recruitment Coordinator – A Passion for People

At her previous company, Zori was a regional manager for a retail financial company where she recruited and trained people for more than 20 years. Tired of the stress of finance and retail, she found her home here at BBB where she has been successfully recruiting and training Ambassadors for two years as Regional Recruitment Coordinator.

There are two parts to Zori’s position: recruiting and training. As far as recruiting goes, managers from various accounts will come to her with an opening. From there, she takes over posting the position on hiring sites and conducting initial interviews via Zoom or phone calls. She forwards suitable candidates back to the managers to interview and make their final choice. Once someone has been hired, she takes over again to do full-cycle onboarding and train the individuals on BBB standards and best practices for their work out in the field.

After employees have been hired, then comes the training. Every other week, Zori hosts a two-day, new-hire training for new employees from 15 accounts in the Bay Area in one central location in Union Square. Each training typically has an average of seven employees from all over the Bay Area but can have as many as 15-20 at maximum.

Training consists of videos, open dialogue and discussions about personal experiences. Zori will discuss a wide range of topics that not only include the work specific to each type of Ambassador or job title, but also important sensitive responsibilities like how to de-escalate a situation, interact with the street population and handle individuals experiencing a mental health episode.

Zori said there are benefits to having the training with Ambassadors from multiple accounts because they “can talk about the different areas and how visitors or residents affect each area and how to handle them.”

Operations Supervisor Freddie “Raven” Anderson with Union Square, San Francisco works closely with Zori as her training takes place in the same building where his account operates.

“Sending our incoming Ambassador staff upstairs to Zori for initial training is a huge advantage,” Raven said. “Often, trying to conduct in-house training during daily operations can be confusing to a new hire and there are often time constraints or distractions that causes a new employee to get less attention than what they get with Zori.”

Zori’s position is unique to BBB in that she takes the time to ensure that when someone first starts with BBB, they are trained for more than just their basic job responsibilities. Trainees not only receive the tools to do their job successfully, but they also learn about how to help those struggling with mental health issues, show visitors hospitality and more.

“When a new hire comes back to us from Zori’s training, they are up to speed on operational procedures and BBB protocols, which saves us a considerable amount of time and allows a smoother transition during the hands-on training we can provide in the field,” Raven said.

Zori’s attention to the new employees doesn’t stop after training, however. She follows up with each person’s manager to discuss employee strengths and potential weaknesses that need to be addressed in the field. She will even message the employee directly to wish them a happy first day or remind them of upcoming meetings.

When asked what she enjoys most about her job, Zori said: “I love it all; I truly love my job. So, I can’t say I have one thing.” She said that she is particularly proud that BBB gives second chance opportunities to individuals who may be facing obstacles preventing them from establishing steady work. She has even hired individuals who were living in their cars to help them get back on their feet.

“I love helping people be able to feed their families and see them successful in the various accounts,” Zori said. “I’ve seen Ambassadors I’ve hired become Team Leads, so helping them grow with the company makes me very proud.”

Bob Martins, Regional Maintenance Mechanic — “Mr. Fix It”

Bob grew up tinkering on cars with his father in the garage of their home in the 70s and 80s. He says cars were made differently back then. You could open the hood and work on them, take them apart, and put them back together. His dad was an IBM machinist by day but made working on cars the “fun stuff.”

Bob started working with a company that operated in the San Jose Downtown Association before BBB took over the account. He would watch maintenance technicians that the account manager hired to fix equipment as they made their repairs. It wasn’t long before he realized he could easily make the same repairs. After mentioning it to his boss, he became “Mr. Fix It.” He started changing the oil in the equipment, making minor repairs and ultimately repairing pressure washing vehicles. Bob worked with San Jose Groundwerx for 15 years, the first five with a company that would later be bought by BBB and the remainder with BBB.

The Regional Maintenance Mechanic position Bob now holds is a new position that BBB determined would be an asset to Bay Area accounts. From his knowledge growing up tinkering and the time he spent learning about and repairing equipment in San Jose, Bob was the perfect candidate to travel from account to account making repairs in the Bay. Each evening, Bob determines where he needs to go the next day. He takes off from his home base in Lathrop around 6 – 7 a.m. to make the drive to whatever account needs his maintenance skills.

Bob also manages BBB’s Bay Area Storage Facility with extra fleet equipment in case an account has a major breakdown or needs to borrow a piece of equipment for any reason. The facility houses extra All-Terrain Litter Vehicles (ATLVs), pressure washer trucks, a pickup truck and more. This equipment is loaned out, free of charge, to accounts that need it.

Bob’s position and the fleet storage facility were investments BBB made to bolster our regional support and ensure a quick repair time to keep Ambassadors out and about doing what they do best.

The purpose of this new position, which Bob began in March, is to keep account equipment working, reduce the amount of down time between breakdowns and save BBB and our customers money on what otherwise would be outsourced labor repairs. There are 16 BBB accounts in the Bay Area, and Bob performs repairs for all that have mechanized equipment — which is most of them. Account managers will call or text Bob when something goes down, and he will get them on his next available schedule to drive out and make the repairs.

He is also quick to respond to repair requests. “If you call me today, nine times out of ten, I will be there tomorrow,” he said.

“Bob is fantastic,” said Raven. When Bob worked maintenance for Groundwerx, Raven said he or his team members would drive from San Francisco to San Jose, about a 30-minute drive, just to have Bob fix equipment. Raven has also learned a lot from Bob over the years, as Bob has taken the time to show him how to make minor repairs like replace water pumps, hoses, unloaders and other parts on their equipment.

“Having regional maintenance support saves us travel time, labor repair costs, parts cost and gets us back in service faster than waiting on a shop or outside service provider,” Raven added.

Despite driving every day, Bob doesn’t think he will ever get burned out. Listening to comedy podcasts, seeing the scenery and what’s off the side of the road keeps him entertained through the long driving hours. He enjoys the freedom and trust he has from his boss Semu One Bear, Pacific West Regional Vice President. Working for Semu again, whom he worked with in San Jose years ago, is another highlight.

“I hope this lasts until I can retire,” Bob said. “I want this program to succeed. Maybe in the future if this succeeds up here and in Southern California, maybe we can implement similar programs across the country and find good people to do what I do.”

“And, maybe then I can run that from a computer and get off the road,” he added, laughing.

Posted on Friday June 30, 2023 by Insider Look

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Safety Day 2023

Team of Block by Block Ambassadors in Louisville, KY at The Paddock Shops posing for a photo.

Our Louisville Paddock Shops Ambassador Team with 1-2 Years Injury Free!

While safety is our No. 1 priority every day, Block by Block’s (BBB) official Safety Day comes only once a year. This is a day where BBB Teams come together for food, fun and important discussions about safety.

BBB’s Stop. Think. Act. Program began in 2014 as a commitment to regularly teach and remind our Ambassadors and Teams of the importance of our safety best practices.

Rubber bracelets with the motto “Stop. Think. Act.” denote the safety status of each account BBB contracts with and are a part of the daily uniform for all Ambassadors in the field. When we first open in a new location, each member of the Ambassador Team receives a black bracelet that serves as a daily reminder to Stop, Think and Act safely. Once an account has reached 12 months with no injuries, they receive yellow bracelets. When an account reaches 24 months with no injuries, they are upgraded again to green bracelets.

BBB and our teams across the country celebrated Safety Day on June 30. Operation Managers (OMs) met with their teams to discuss why safety is important and went over previous incidents that have occurred. The teams discussed how those incidents could have been avoided, as they bonded with the team over a meal provided by BBB. Team Leaders also facilitated discussions about close calls or would-be incidents that were narrowly avoided or intentionally prevented. They discussed what was done correctly and what could have been done better.

Ambassadors also tested their safety knowledge with quizzes, trivia and even jeopardy! Each account leader was responsible for making the day fun, engaging and educational. Teams across the country showcased their celebrations on our Block by Block Ambassador Facebook page.

At the time of BBB Safety Day 2023, 34 accounts were injury free for one to two years, and 38 accounts were injury free for over two years. That’s more than half of BBB accounts that are injury free for one year or more!

We want to highlight some of those accounts with outstanding injury prevention! Downtown Fargo Business Improvement District (BID) is one of these accounts.

“We are always talking about safety, during shift briefings and throughout the day.” Victor Heitkamp, Fargo BID OM, said. “We talk about items that are relevant for any giving day.”

Lately, Victor has been discussing heat safety at his account. “We have seen some extreme heat for our area, and I am constantly reminding teammates to stay hydrated, take breaks when they need and keep an eye out for one another,” he said.

“I feel we are fortunate because we have such a small crew of Ambassadors that it’s easy to look after one another,” Victor added. “I also give BBB a huge amount of credit. The efforts they take on safety and safety training are like no other! I truly feel that corporate cares about its people working across the country through the 140+ programs. There is great uniformity and expectation set with good direction that comes from the top.”

Another safety-focused account with over two years without injury is the University of Akron, Ohio. OM Jon Roethlisberger said he attributes their success to his belief that “safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.”

We applaud these accounts for their success and encourage those with less than a year to continue keeping safety at the forefront of their daily activities!

2+ Years Injury Free

Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, NY; Bethlehem EDC, PA; Castro/Upper Market CBD, CA; Charlotte Center City Partners, SC; City Center Partnership, SC; City of Albuquerque, NM; City of Beverly Hills, CA; City of Coral Gables, FL; City of Livermore, CA; Diamond City Partnership, PA; Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, CA; Downtown Columbia, SC; Downtown Dayton Partnership, OH; Downtown Fargo BID, ND; Downtown Jackson Partnership, MS; Downtown Lexington Partnership, KY; Golden Triangle BID, DC; Hillsborough Street CSC, NC; Hollywood CRA, FL; Japantown CBD, CA; Kailua Village BID, HI; Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, MI; Lincoln Road BID, FL; Memphis Medical District, TN; Montague Street BID, NY; Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID, NY; Playhouse Village Association, CA; Providence DID, RI; Rosslyn BID, VA; Sports Complex SSD, PA; Stamford Downtown SSD, CT; Temescal Telegraph BID, CA; Town Center at Levis Commons, OH; University of Akron, OH; Uptown Dallas, Inc., TX

1-2 Years Injury Free

Atlantic Avenue Bid, NY; Augusta Downtown Initiative, GA; Boulder Downtown Partnership, CO; City of Louisville, KY; City of Myrtle Beach, FL; Colfax Avenue BID, CO; Corpus Christi DMD, TX; Downtown Chico BA, CA; Downtown Development District, LA; Downtown Frederick Partnership, MD; Downtown Mobile DMC,AL; Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc., OK; Downtown Toledo BID, OH; Downtown Tulsa Partnership, OK; Downtown Ventura Partners, CA; Greater Easton DP, PA; Miami Downtown, FL; Mill Avenue District, AZ; Myrtle Ave. Business District Association, NY; Oakland BID, CA; Old Pasadena MD, CA; Paddock Shops, KY; Peavey Plaza MDID, MN; Rose Kennedy Greenway Park, MA; San Jose DA, CA; Short North Alliance, OH; St. Paul Downtown Alliance, MN; Sunset Park BID, NY; The East Cut CBD, CA; The Ohio State University, OH; University District SID, OH; University of Minnesota, MN; Visit Knoxville TN, TN; Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, MD

Posted on Friday May 12, 2023 by Insider Look

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While San Francisco Sleeps, These Teams Go to Work

Each night, just as San Franciscans are finishing dinner, tucking-in children, and getting ready for their nightly routines, Block by Block (BBB) third-shift Ambassadors are showing up for work, ready to make the streets of Union Square and the surrounding blocks spic and span.

Freddie “Raven” Anderson, Operations Supervisor, and Tinea Adams, General Manager, oversee BBB Ambassador operations at San Francisco, California’s Union Square. While many of their responsibilities match those of other BBB teams throughout the country, part of their job is uniquely special to Union Square’s needs.

Like every account that BBB operates, a one-of-a-kind workplan has been created to tackle the needs specific to Union Square. A part of this plan is routine, nightly power washing. While the Union Square Alliance is approximately 26 blocks (or 1.6 miles), the actual walking distance of both sides of the streets, all block faces and alcoves in the Alliance is approximately 7.5 miles. It takes the BBB third-shift Ambassador Team about a week to power wash the entire Alliance—a distance equivalent to walking the Golden Gate Bridge about 4.5 times from one end to the other.

Map of Union Square Alliance showing 26 blocks covered.

Map of Union Square Alliance with blocks covered.

Around 8 p.m. each night, three to four individuals with pressure washers are deployed throughout Union Square. To prevent late-night noise disturbances for sleeping residents, attention is first directed toward residential areas. A driver is also sent out in an All-Terrain Litter Vacuum (ATLV) to pick up larger debris from streets and curbs. After the residential areas have been power washed, next come the dirtiest areas, with customer requests given precedence.

Working in tandem into the early hours of the morning, the team makes their way through the district covering a different route of the Alliance each evening. The result of all this effort? Residents, business owners, and tourists wake up to clean streets clear of debris as they go about their morning routines.

Raven says working at night comes with unique challenges, with the safety of BBB crews a number one priority. In addition to ensuring the night crews are wearing proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), Raven also touches base with all crew members throughout the night to know where everyone is and make sure everyone is accounted for. Typically, two Ambassadors will clean opposite sides of the same street, carrying walky-talkies and their company SMART devices in case they run into any issues or need to notify the Team Lead of a concern. Working in pairs adds a layer of safety for Ambassadors during this late-night work.

Other than safety concerns and preventing noise around residential areas, Raven and Tinea said the overnight Ambassador Teams encounter other issues day crews do not. On Friday and Saturday nights, Union Square comes alive with bar-goers and night life. They said it can be challenging to pressure wash while the sidewalks are busy with people. Cleaning the streets and curb-lines can also be difficult when cars are parked there, making it hard for the ATLV to get close enough to pick up debris. Despite these challenges, the Ambassadors accomplish their nightly power washing every evening, without fail.

Not only do the Ambassadors accomplish their tasks, but they excel at them, thanks to a 14-point Quality Control Audit System created by BBB. This system is a checklist for the quality of the cleaning completed in each section and by each Ambassador. It includes locations like curb-lines, sidewalks, tree boxes, alcoves/doorways, and other visible elements that need special attention in the Alliance. Cleaning Ambassadors are given a grade out of four, based on how clean each location is from a zero, unacceptable, to a four, outstanding. Individuals not performing to BBB standards are issued feedback and clarified expectations. If individuals repeatedly fail to meet expectations, they will be relieved of their position. This guarantees that the Alliance is getting the quality results they pay for.

Third-shift Ambassadors work an eight-hour shift with a 40-minute lunch break. Around 4:00 a.m., all Ambassadors return to the main operating station to clean the inside and outside of the vehicles used and debrief on the evening. This happens every single night, seven days a week.

Raven has been with BBB since 2016, having worked just about every position there is: cleaning, special projects, pressure washing, Team Lead and now Operations. Currently, because of his experience, Raven is covering as Team Lead during the night shifts at Union Square as they look to hire new supervisors.

Tinea came to work at BBB after working retail and being a stay-at-home mom. She wanted to work somewhere she could manage great people, something she is deeply passionate about. At BBB, Tinea has found somewhere she loves going to every day, where she can make a difference in the community and meet tourists from all over the world (while getting to work outside!).

Tinea believes the BBB Ambassador Team and SF Travel, another division of BBB in San Francisco focusing on tourism, are a family that works together to make Union Square clean and safe, keeping visitors coming back.

“When you walk through, how clean are our streets? They are very clean because we are doing a great job. It feels good to know we are making a difference. You can see the difference in the borders where we don’t work,” she said.

Raven shared similar sentiment. He feels it is amazing to be able to work in a world-renowned city with team camaraderie and where everyone knows you.

San Francisco’s Union Square is a bustling, historic part of the city with backdrops of quaint cable cars, large events, shopping and immense history, and BBB Ambassadors are there to keep it safe and clean for visitors and locals every step of the way—both night and day.

A group of people in uniforms at night posing in front of Union Square branded vehicles.

An overnight crew ready to get cleaning!