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The city Sanitation Department is wrongfully ticketing residents who put their trash bins on the curb for pickup too early, according to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who is renewing calls to the department to stop fining people under what he said is artificial policy.
For the past year Avella has argued that a department regulation prohibiting people from placing their trash bins on the curb earlier than 5 p.m. the day before collection or earlier than 4 p.m. from October to April is void because it never went through a mandated process required by a city law.
“Right now they have no legal authority to enforce those regulations,” he said.
The city Administrative Procedure Act requires the public to be given a chance to comment on proposed rules and that adopted rules must be published in the Compilation of City Rules and the City Record. Avella said the department regulation did not meet those requirements.
He said the regulation that is in effect prohibits residents from placing their trash bins on the curb until the day of collection, meaning that for Tuesday morning trash pickups, residents may not place their trash bins on the curb until 12:01 a.m. that day.
When the department selectively issues tickets to some but not all people for putting their trash bins out the day before, it is thus unlawfully penalizing some people and not others, Avella said.
He wants the department to stop enforcing the policy and refund anyone who got a ticket. He also is asking the department to go through the correct process to formally establish an updated regulation, which he said would give people who are unable to meet new regulations an opportunity to ask for exceptions.
A resident who received a ticket for putting the trash out too early is considering suing the department and is expected to consult with a lawyer soon, Avella said.
“[The department] would lose in court because they have no legal justification,” he said.
The department argued that it is reasonably enforcing the statute, which it said is not in violation of city law.
Sanitation said trash cans left on the sidewalk for extended periods of time are more likely to be used improperly by pedestrians to dispose of trash. They also can “fall over causing trash to be spread onto streets and sidewalks, which creates a food source for animals and eyesores for the neighborhood,” the agency said in a statement.
In fiscal year 2012 Sanitation wrote 8,224 summonses for failure to properly store receptacles for both commercial businesses and residential homes in Queens, the agency said.
Avella blasted back that the statement was “ridiculous.”
He said the department admitted at a City Council meeting in 2006 that the policy needed to go through the formal process to become an enforceable regulation, but it never followed through.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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