Brooklyn council seeks to remove clothing dumpsters

July 31, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The bins become overstuffed with clothing that spills out of them, according to community leaders, who said the containers are also magnets for litter
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Clothing donation bins are becoming ubiquitous on Brooklyn sidewalks but the large metal containers are proving to be a major headache for city officials.

The bins are often so stuffed with clothes dropped off by charitable residents that the shirts, sweaters and scarves spill out onto the sidewalk. The containers are also a magnet for broken bottles and other forms of litter, officials charged.

And making matters worse, it’s not clear if the clothing is really being donated to the poor or is being sold to thrift shops at a profit, Councilmember Vincent Gentile said. “Not only are these bins eyesores, they deceive well-intentioned New Yorkers who believe they’re donating their used clothing to charity,” he said.

Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito are sponsoring legislation with an eye toward making it easier for the city’s Department of Sanitation (DOS) to remove the offending bins from public sidewalks.

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The bill calls for DOS to be able to cart away the bins immediately. In addition, first-time violators would be fined $250. Repeat offenders would face a $500 fine. 

Under current city law, DOS has to tag an offending bin, a move that gives the bin owner 30 days to remove the container.

But members of Sunset Park Restoration, a preservation group in Sunset Park, charged that all the 30-day warning period does is give the bin owners a chance to play hop-scotch with the city. The owners leave the bins in place until the 29th day and then move the containers to another corner, according to Restoration members.

“From discussions with other communities, it seemed that these bins were showing up all over the borough,” Jovita Sosa-Vergara, a Restoration board member, recently said.

“They’re all over the place. We have definitely had a tremendous increase from past years,” said Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11 (Bensonhurst-Bath Beach).

“It’s a real issue for us,” Elias-Pavia told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday. “Garbage piles up. Clothes are strewn all over the sidewalk. It’s a mess.”

As if one bin wasn’t bad enough, many locations have two of the unsightly dumpsters standing side by side. At one location within the confines of Community Board 11, the corner of New Utrecht Avenue and 86th Street, a second bin was placed next to one that had originally stood there. “They dumped a second one there, but it was removed,” Elias-Pavia said.

The New York Times reported that city law makes it illegal to place a bin on a public sidewalk. They can be placed on private property, however, but only if the property owner consents.

There is evidence that the bins are multiplying. In fiscal year 2010, the city tagged 91 bins and removed 10 from the sidewalks. Four years later, in fiscal year 2014, more than 2,006 bins were tagged and 132 were confiscated, the Times reported.

“They have become the bane of our existence,” City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia told the Times.

“New Yorkers are very generous and these illegal collection bins are designed to take advantage of that generosity,” Mark-Viverto said. “This legislation will help clean up our sidewalks while also making sure New Yorkers know that when they donate items they are going to legitimate charitable institutions for people in need.”

“These bins are illegal, unsafe and undermine the efforts of the legitimate charities that actually collect clothing for those in need. This bill will impose strict penalties on the shadowy companies engaging in this illegal practice,” Gentile said.

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