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Law-abiding Queens residents are getting slammed by the city Sanitation Department for the harmless offense of putting their trash bins on the curb too early in the day before the scheduled pickup.
Homeowners said they were shocked when they found tickets fining them $100 for putting their trash out too early. Rose — not her real name — one of the victims of the Sanitation police in College Point, is furious. Her husband said she pays more attention to the recycling rules than anyone on the block, separating paper, cans and glass.
Apparently Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty never heard of the concept that the punishment should fit the crime. The thought of the city trying to balance the budget by sending out Sanitation police to beat up honest taxpayers is beyond annoying: It is an abuse of governmental power.
State Sen. Tony Avella says the 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 never went through the mandated process required by a city law.
Avella says 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. The senator said the department regulation did not meet those requirements.
He wants a judge to require the department to stop enforcing the regulation and refund all the paid fines.
The department argues that trash put out to the curb too early can cause litter and attract animals. It said it is reasonably enforcing the statute, which it said is not in violation of city law.
We don’t know if Avella is right, but it doesn’t take a scholar to see that this fine is excessive. It alienates a department that works hard to keep the city clean from the people it serves.
If this is not a money-making scheme but an effort to address a real problem, then the department should work with the community boards to educate the public about the rules.
Today the commissioner makes a good salary, but not that long ago he was a working stiff. He should remember how much $100 means to the average Queens family.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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