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God’s law before trash collection

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For the cold weather months at least, biblical law seems to have trumped the rules of the Department of Sanitation. That’s good news for those living in the Fraser area, which includes Avenues K, L, and M in the East 30s and 40s. A large percentage of residents there are observant Jews, who were getting tickets from the city for setting their trash to the curb about an hour before the city says it’s legal. Jewish law forbids doing work—taking out the trash included—on the Sabbath, which begins Friday at sunset and ends Saturday at sundown. Trash pickups in the neighborhood are Wednesdays and Saturdays. “This was difficult for the orthodox because of Sabbath,” said Robert Nadel, president of the Fraser Civic Association. “The other issue is that on the Sabbath, the trucks were coming very early and making a lot of noise. On a windy day, the pails would be blown around and they couldn’t do anything about it,” he said. The city listened, and recently agreed to push back an hour the time when trash can be legally set on the curb. The civic group, along with Assemblymember Helene Weinstein and City Counbcilmember Lew Fidler, helped advocate on behalf of local residents. In a Jan. 16 letter to Community Board 18, DOS Assistant Commissioner Maria Termini acknowledged that different neighborhood’s present different challenges for the agency. “There are neighborhoods and in some cases entire districts where there is a significant population of [orthodox] Jewish Sabbath observers,” she wrote. “In an effort to be sensitive to the concerns of the community, the department has modified enforcement procedures…the department has also adjusted the time (from 5 p.m. to 4 p.m.) during the winter (Oct.-April) when refuse and recyclables can be places out for collection in consideration of both Sabbath observers and our elderly citizens.” The civic association has been pushing for a schedule change, eliminating Saturday as a trash pick-up day. “We’d like to switch our Saturday with their Friday,” Nadel said, referring to when trash is collected in Marine Park. “Or exchange a day that we don’t have to pick up on Saturday,” he added. Termini said a schedule change would not necessarily come easy. “A schedule change would have a domino effect throughout the entire community and would necessitate the board engaging in significant public process including a public hearing in order for the board to determine which areas would get which days,” according to Termini. As an example, she said, the schedule for an entire section having a Wednesday-Saturday schedule would have to be changed with another section with different collecting days within Community Board 18, which encompasses Canarsie, Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, Flatlands, Marine Park, Georgetown, Fraser and Mill Island. She said the board would be responsible for notifying residents of any change, after the agency first reviews the routes in affected areas. Still, Nadel said the civic and the community is grateful. “We appreciate the fact that the city is willing to consider taking our recommendations and possibly acting on it,” he said. But the city shouldn’t rest on its laurels. He said last year when it snowed, Avenue L was ignored by city snow plows. “If it snows again this year, there will certainly be a loud hue and cry,” Nadel vowed.

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