Gotham Gazette

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Stated Meeting: Making Room in Litter Baskets

New Yorkers will have to keep their residential trash out of public litter baskets or face a fine of up to $400 under legislation unanimously approved by the City Council.

At its stated meeting on August 22, the City Council sharply increased fines for dumping residential or commercial waste in public litter baskets. The council also approved a Business Improvement District for Sunnyside, Queens, passed legislation requiring certain payments to city contractors be made electronically and made a technical correction to the Brooklyn Navy Yard/North Brooklyn Empire Zone.

Trash Cans for Public Use Only, Not Personal

The Department of Sanitation has long estimated that 20 percent of trash collected from public litter baskets is either residential or commercial waste. To deter businesses or residents from using these baskets as personal dumping grounds, Councilmember Michael McMahon introduced (Intro 110-A) legislation, which raises fines by approximately 30 to 300 percent.

Under the new legislation, the penalty for the first violation will increase to $100 to $300 from a range of $25 to $100; the second violation from $100 to $200 to between $250 and $350; and the third violation will be raised from $200 to $300 to $350 to $400. Higher fines would apply to subsequent violations that occur within a year of the first violation.

The increased fines, said McMahon, who is chair of the council's Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, will free up space in public wastebaskets and, in turn, keep New York City's streets cleaner.

" The problem we have is our public litter baskets become overfilled and the trash overflows," said McMahon "It's not only unsightly, but (the baskets) themselves become the source of litter."

McMahon said the Department of Sanitation will identify violators at its own "discretion," typically by finding addresses or names from bundled trash in a public basket and from observation of certain street corners. The legislation, which was approved by a vote of 43 to 0, also incorporates a presumption that any trash with identifying information, such as addresses or names, in fact belongs to the individual who committed the violation.

To fight this presumption, the individual would have to appear before the Environmental Control Board, officials said. McMahon estimates the Department of Sanitation issued approximately 2,500 violations for illegal dumping of this kind last year.

" The fines aren't being raised to generate revenue," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "They are being raised as a deterrent."

Brightening Sunnyside

The City Council also unanimously approved a Business Improvement District in Sunnyside, Queens (Intro 585) to boost business in the area. The district will include 92 properties and 300 businesses.

According to a report from the council's Finance Committee, the district will receive $300,000 its first year, and the funding will be distributed to various projects aimed at cleaning up the neighborhood, such as graffiti removal, maintenance, sanitation and holiday lighting.

As of July, there were 56 business improvement districts throughout the five boroughs, which provide $83 million in services annually.

No More Checks for City Contractors

At the suggestion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the council also approved legislation (Intro 570-A) requiring all city contractors be paid electronically if their contract exceeds $25,000. The legislation aims to reduce bureaucracy and paperwork and save money on postage by mandating an electronic funds transfer for these payments, which will also help reduce the nearly 800,000 checks cut by the city annually.

" The elimination of postage, as well as unnecessary bank costs, is the logical next step in generating savings for the city," said Councilmember Letitia James, chair of the Contracts Committee. "This legislation is designed to help both the city of New York and contractors manage their funds more effectively."

Empire Zone

The council also made a minor change (Intro 603-A) to an Empire Zone in North Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Navy Yard after a parcel was inadvertently excluded from legislation approved last year. Overall, the Empire Zone entitles tenants in the area to certain business incentives and tax breaks.


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