Today’s news:

Flushing trash cans spark controversy over Liu name

Trash on Flushing’s streets has been a matter of debate for many years, but since the end of June, new trash cans have moved onto center stage.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) has drawn criticism because his name appears on 14 new receptacles in downtown Flushing.

Community Board 7, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point and Bay Terrace, has received phone calls from residents complaining that Liu’s name is on the cans, said CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman.

“The board has gotten a lot of complaints about it,” Bitterman said. “People want to know if he has paid for this out of pocket.”

Liu had appropriated $10,000 from city council funds to put the cans on the streets of downtown Flushing. The cans, which weigh 230 pounds, replaced smaller, standard issue cans, which hold roughly half as much trash.

Unlike most city cans which read: “Keep New York City Clean,” the new cans read: “Keep Flushing Clean/Councilman John Liu.”

Liu said it was the Department of Sanitation, and not his office, that suggested putting his name on the cans.

“That was their idea,” Liu said. “They suggested it. I said, ‘I don’t care.’”

Al Ferguson, a spokesman for the DOS, confirmed Liu’s statement.

“It was the Department of Sanitation’s decision,” he said. “It’s department policy to place the donor’s name on the basket.”

Ferguson noted that state Sen. Daniel Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) also had his name on garbage cans that he funded.

Martha Flores Vazquez, the Independent Party candidate who lost to Liu in November’s elections, contended that Liu’s name on the cans was a form of campaigning and therefore could be illegal.

Mark Davies, a spokesman for the city’s Conflict of Interest Board, said he could not comment on the specifics of the case.

“It’s only a violation of the conflict of interest law if city funds are used for a non-city purpose,” Davies said.

Gene Russianoff, a senior attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said he did not think Liu’s name on the cans violates the law.

“I can understand why some people would object,” Russianoff said. “But there isn’t a major construction project in the five boroughs that doesn’t have the name of every politician who had something to do with it on it. It kind of comes with the territory.”

Former City Councilman Sheldon Leffler, who represented northeast Queens in the City Council for many years, agreed with Russianoff that Liu was not the only politician to have his name appear on city property.

“What John has done is certainly not unprecedented,” Leffler said.

Nevertheless, he went on to say: “It’s not the rule. It’s certainly the exception,

“It’s up to people to decide whether or not it’s appropriate.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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