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Liu, community protest potential sanitation cuts

Minutes later City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) met Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing) and David Weprin (D-Hollis) to denounce the mayor's proposed $1.4 million cut from sanitation services in the outer boroughs.

They chose downtown Flushing for their backdrop, a neighborhood that established a business improvement district to bring order to the crowded and perpetually littered streets where excess trash often sits around garbage cans.

"The Council has worked hard to remove the trash from the streets of this city," Miller said in a statement. "We cannot accept a plan that would take New York a giant step backwards with regards to maintaining clean communities throughout the five boroughs."

Liu invited Miller to downtown Flushing more than two years ago to discuss sanitation and trash collection and since then, the city has added extra shifts as a result of their efforts. These proposed cuts would actually reduce the sanitation shifts back to the original level before Liu began lobbying for cleaner streets.

With signs reading "Keep New York Clean" and "We Need Our Streets Cleaned," employees from Liu's office joined community members in protesting the potential cuts to sanitation services.

The cuts would eliminate 12 truck shifts in Queens, the same dozen that were added through last year's budget, according to a press release from Miller's office.

"Flushing is the mecca of Queens," community member Don Henton said at the protest outside the Starbucks on Main Street. "It should be kept cleaned at all times."

Liu said the cuts in sanitation services were not tied to the proliferation in BIDs in the past few years.

"BIDs by law are not permitted to duplicate services that the city is responsible for," he said. "It's the city's responsibility to take the garbage away from these garbage cans."

He said he plans to fight the cuts through all stages of the budget process.

"We're talking about a private-public partnership and if the private is putting in, the public should as well," he said.

Since the creation of the Flushing BID, the neighborhood has hired a new sanitation company and extended its hours of operation.

Liu said there are 15 trash pick-ups each week in Flushing.

"Over the years I've fought for more Department of Sanitation pickups," Liu said.

John Wang, who works in Liu's office, said he is working on a survey of sanitation services in downtown Flushing.

"We go out and we're right now doing a survey and checking the regulations," he said. "We're definitely seeing a change."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call (718) 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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