Sanitation Dept. considers reducing garbage pickups

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Two Department of Sanitation plans recently made public are causing a figurative stink and may lead to a literal one as well.

As budget cuts loom, the city Department of Sanitation is considering the unpopular option of significantly reducing its public garbage pickups in northeast Queens’ commercial areas, Community Board 11 Chairman Bernard Haber said this week.

The agency would cut back garbage pickups of its public litter baskets from five times a week to two if the city’s financial picture stays bleak in the new fiscal year, a Department of Sanitation spokeswoman said .

“Litter basket pickups will be unchanged for the remainder of the fiscal year,” spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins said Tuesday. “In the next fiscal year, it will depend on the severity of the budget.” The next fiscal year starts in July.

Haber told Monday night’s CB 11 meeting the Department of Sanitation had sent the board a letter last month warning them of the potential changes.

CB 11 includes the communities of Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, Auburndale and Hollis Hills. Haber said commercial strips in the district, like Bell Boulevard, Northern Boulevard and parts of Springfield Boulevard, would probably be most affected by the change.

Also causing consternation is talk of restarting enforcement of the notorious 18-inch rule, which requires store owners to keep both the sidewalk and an 18-inch section of the public street in front of their businesses clean and litter free. Store owners who fail to do so when department inspectors come around would be subject to fines, Haber said.

“It puts the responsibility on the merchants,” Haber said.

The enforcement of the rule in the early 1990s was onerous, Haber said, with business owners often getting fined for litter beyond their control. Eventually, community complaints prompted the Department of Sanitation to put a moratorium on the enforcement of the 18-inch rule.

Dawkins said the Department of Sanitation established the moratorium in 1993, but recently considered phasing it out.

The moratorium, she said, was only used in community board districts where the streets were regularly 75 percent clean. Community Board 11 was one of those areas, Dawkins said.

Longtime Bell Boulevard store owner Jack Fried, who recently retired from Benn’s Hardware, decried the possible return of the 18-inch rule.

“When this first started, the concept was it would keep the streets cleaner,” Fried said. “But the merchants were forced to be out there all day long — it’s utterly impossible.”

“Everybody’s got to do their share,” he said. “The city’s got to do its share too.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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