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Jamaica waste firm to grow despite bad rap

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On the whole, the industry has developed a reputation for allowing its trucks to take illegal routes through residential neighborhoods, letting its vehicles sit idle in parking lots as they emit fumes and permitting its refuse to create noxious odors, particularly in the summer heat. The companies have come under fire from many residents, and area business groups have said the operations, permitted in the M1 light industrial zones because of a loophole in the law, are an unwelcome presence.At Regal Recycling, co-owner Michael Reali, in the midst of an expansion of his facility, said the company is trying to break the mold and be a role model for others. "We put our time and effort into the community," he said recently while sitting in his office at 170-21 Douglas Ave. "We're very dedicated to the community we're in."Reali's grandfather started a rubbish business on the site in 1954, and Reali and his siblings were all born in Jamaica Hospital. Since the company was renamed Regal Recycling in 1990, the co-owner said he has made an effort to give back to the neighborhood. He sponsors events for the Community Council at Jamaica's 103rd Precinct, holds gatherings at the neighborhood's Det. Keith Williams Park for seniors and teens, supports a youth football team, helps keep the park and community clean and hands out turkeys during the holidays.At first the company pursued its community work in a low-key fashion, but in recent years it has made its charitable presence more visible. Still, not everyone has recognized their efforts, Reali said."It's frustrating because a lot of people close their eyes to the good," he said, "They only see what they want to see."One of his supporters has been Donna Clopton, the president of the 103rd Precinct's Community Council."When they hear the word 'recycling,' they think it's gotta be bad," she said of some residents, describing the company's critics as a few vocal voices, some of whom have accused her of selling out. "They don't even bother to come over and find out."Regal, a 140-employee company, will soon complete an expansion begun in 2002 of its operations within the confines of the property it already owned. Reali said his new facility would include 15,000 square feet of parking to take trucks off the street, a state-of-the-art deodorizer and a roof with fans to keep the dust down. He said he has also sent an employee out daily to direct traffic on Douglas Avenue not only for his operation but also other industrial companies, has reduced idling times and has worked with the 103rd Precinct to set up neighborhood surveillance of illegal truck routes, promising to fire non-compliant drivers."We're always a step ahead of the industry," Reali said. "We're always above the industry norm." He acknowledged, however, that it is a challenge to work close to a residential area with several homes just across the street from his company. Since Reali's firm handles private commercial waste, not residential waste, it is unlikely to be affected by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to move transfer stations to waterfront sites.Regal's expansion was opposed by many in Jamaica. During testimony at a city Department of Sanitation hearing in 2002, a statement by City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) acknowledged the company's participation in the community and its willingness to work with civic organizations. But he also said the expansion would hurt his Council district, already beset by toxic sites and chemical spills, by giving it a disproportionate share of the waste burden to shoulder. Comrie said he had received complaints about strong odors and heavy traffic from residents living near Regal.The non-profit Lawyers for the Public Interest later filed a lawsuit with a Queens group against the Sanitation Department and settled after Regal agreed to install additional odor and pollution controls.The borough group in the suit, The Federation of Civic Associations of Southeast Queens, could not be reached for comment. But Gavin Kearney, an attorney with the lawyers' organization, said while Regal had been responsive, it remained to be seen if the recycler would abide by the terms of the deal."Right now, it's wait and see," he said.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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