Business owners are bearing the brunt of the burden as overflowing garbage cans and household debris continue to litter Liberty Avenue.
“People seem to think — when they see a trash can — that they can dump all of their garbage from home there. They think they have the right to do that. It’s frustrating,” said Monica, a manager at Monique’s Beauty Salon, who did not want to give her last name. “This always happens. I get upset because we didn’t put the garbage there, but we’re still being fined for it.”
Like Monica, several merchants along the main commercial strip in Richmond Hill have been slapped with $100 fines for waste that spills onto their storefronts, although they say the mess is not theirs.
“People leave nasty stuff outside — and when they leave it there, we get a ticket,” said Pam Mohabir, owner of Melanie Fashion Boutique.
Mohabir said she has seen garbage bags, construction waste and even mattresses pile up in front of her store on 127th Street.
She said she was pinned with a $100 fine at the end of November for debris and leaves blown in front of her store during a rainy day.
“When other people leave stuff outside, we have to bring it in to the back of the store so we don’t get fined,” Mohabir said.
The debris debacle has also raised concerns from local leaders.
Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said the problem stems from a combination of not having enough garbage receptacles along Liberty Avenue and not having frequent enough garbage pickups.
“When the garbage overflows, the store owner gets a ticket. It’s a very unhealthy relationship,” Mahadeo said, adding that business has suffered as a result of the overwhelming amount of refuse. “[The area] no longer is a shopper-friendly environment. It’s a sore sight and it’s very unsanitary. When there’s overflowing garbage, you don’t feel comfortable shopping there.”
Councilmember Ruben Wills — who has been working with merchants about this issue over the last year — said trash pickups have been recently extended from two to three days a week after he and Councilmember Eric Ulrich were able to secure funding for it.
“That alleviated a lot of the problem,” Wills said, adding that they just added more funding.
However, according to Wills, the problem lies beyond insufficient pickups and trash bins. He said the area is home to several “illegally converted apartment buildings, which allows for a lot more garbage to be accumulated and for the infrastructure to be overwhelmed.”
He said he is currently working with the Department of Buildings and the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to enforce fines upon the people who litter and not the storeowners.
“It’s not fair for this issue to be put on the back of small business owners,” Wills said.
While business owners are still required to sweep their sidewalks during the day, DSNY officials said they are “closely monitoring litter baskets to address their misuse, as well as pedestrians to make sure they respect their community.”
Business owners are asked to report garbage overflow problems to 3-1-1.