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Avella wants city to clean bus stops near businesses

Five days a week, Seane Gorry dons a pair of rubber gloves and gets to work cleaning up the bottles, cans, cigarette butts and fast-food scraps on the sidewalk outside Defining Style, the Whitestone hair salon she co-owns.

“People think this sidewalk is a garbage can,” said Gorry, who sometimes goes out two or three times a day to cope with the mess on her portion of Francis Lewis Boulevard and 20th Avenue.

As a shopkeeper, Gorry is held responsible by the Sanitation Department for maintaining the sidewalk in front of her business and 18 inches into the street. But that area includes a bus stop, a magnet for trash that forces her to clean a little more for fear of getting a summons.

“I really can’t afford to be summoned. We’re a small company,” said Gorry, whose efforts so far have prevented her from being ticketed.

In addition to the burden of the bus stop, she said a Sanitation supervisor recently asked her to take the extra step of removing the garbage from a city-owned basket in front of her salon, a task she says is both physically difficult and disgusting.

“I said, ‘Take it away, I can’t do it,’” recalled Gorry.

Sanitation Department spokesman John Pampalone said Gorry had volunteered to join the Adopt-a-Basket program in which store owners agree to take out the trash from baskets in front of their businesses, and then had withdrawn from the program.

Pampalone said commercial properties that were part of the agency’s enforcement routing program are required to keep their front areas clean during certain times of the day.

“It’s to their advantage to be part of our enforcement routing program,” said Pampalone, so that an owner “knows when he’s supposed to keep the front of his sidewalk clean.”

Other than voluntary adopt-a-basket programs, it is the Sanitation Department that services the litter baskets on streets, said Pampalone.

City Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) planned to introduce a bill requiring the Sanitation Department to empty curbside garbage baskets once a day.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the Sanitation Department’s recent round of layoffs due to the city’s fiscal crisis has led the agency to ask too much of mom-and-pop businesses and homeowners unlucky enough to have a bus stop in front of their buildings.

“That’s not fair,” said Avella. “Over their head is being held the possibility of getting a summons.”

Although Avella said the Sanitation Department had assured him that homeowners and shopkeepers near bus stops are given something of a break when it comes to upkeep, the councilman said his office has received a steady stream of requests from people to who want bus stops moved away from their storefronts.

Judy Limpert, president of the Bayside Business Association and manager of the North Fork Bank branches on Bell Boulevard, said business owners on Bell were not faced with a similar problem because the business association pays $25,000 a year for a worker to sweep the strip and remove garbage.

Limpert warned that summonses for garbage can be costly to store owners, setting them back as much as $250.

Unlike Bell Boulevard, the block of Francis Lewis that houses Defining Style, a bagel shop and a few other stores has no hired maintenance worker.

“We have a larger commercial strip,” said Limpert. “What do you do when you have five stores here?”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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