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18-inch rule back in boro; shop owners fear penalties

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Northeast Queens merchants beware: keeps those brooms and garbage bags handy.

The city Department of Sanitation, faced with steep budget cuts, said it will bring back a sanitation law known as the 18-inch rule in neighborhoods covered by Community Board 11 by March 18.

The 18-inch rule required store owners to keep both the sidewalk and an 18-inch section of the street in front of their businesses clean and litter free. The law was suspended in CB 11 in the early 1990s under a Sanitation Department pilot program. The program established a moratorium on the 18-inch rule in areas where the streets were at least 75 percent clean.

CB 11 Chairman Bernard Haber, who is retiring from the board’s chairmanship at the March 4 meeting, said store owners who failed to keep their sidewalks clean when department inspectors came around were subject to fines.

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 enforcement of the rule in 1993.

CB 11 includes the communities of Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, Auburndale and Hollis Hills. Haber said commercial strips in the district, such as Bell Boulevard, Northern Boulevard and parts of Springfield Boulevard, would probably be most affected by the re-establishment of the 18-inch rule.

Community Board 11 said there would be a two-week warning period, starting March 4, to make merchants aware of the 18-inch rule reinstatement, with full enforcement starting March 18.

Last month a Sanitation Department spokeswoman told the TimesLedger the agency was also considering cutting back on garbage pickups from litter baskets in commercial areas as a way to save money. It was unclear this week whether a reduction in pickups has been approved.

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

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