Homeowners and one state legislator in northeast Queens are trashing the city’s sanitation department over fines and enforcement rules they say are rubbish.
“This is a money-making thing. They want to make some money, so they make these laws that no one knows about — and they get you,” said Whitestone resident Raymond Jansson. “That’s all it is. It wasn’t to protect the neighborhood or anything.”
Jansson, 59, said he was issued a $100 fine by the city’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) on December 8 of last year when he took out his garbage 45 minutes before the allotted time of removal. He said he put his trash cans out on the sidewalk at 3:15 p.m. and was slapped with a ticket 12 minutes later. Enforcement agents told Jansson his receptacles were also blocking the sidewalk — a claim the homeowner heavily disputed but lost.
“I was on the way to pick up my daughter. I just never thought about it. I’m almost 60 years old. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. That was my job. I’d come home from school and I’d put the garbage out,” Jansson said.
“Nobody on the block knew [of the rule],” he continued. “They never heard of it.”
Flushing resident JoAnn Kelly was also given a $100 ticket last September by DSNY enforcement agents, when her ailing 68-year-old husband — who has since passed away from lung, brain and spine cancer — put out the household trash too early.
Kelly, 65, said she’s waiting for her fourth appeal after contesting the ticket and being told by a judge each time she didn’t “present a meritorious defense.” She said the trash could only be put out when someone else was around to help.
“I don’t know what could have been a more meritorious defense. A person was dying,” Kelly said. “I’m really upset because my husband always considered himself a law-abiding citizen. He passed away feeling like he almost committed a crime. They could have given him a warning. We’ve been living in this home for 40 years and never had a situation like this before. It just seems ludicrous to give someone a $100 fine.”
According to the DSNY’s rules and regulations, residential units may place receptacles out for collection on the sidewalk, right by the curb, no earlier than 5 p.m. the day before their scheduled collection and no earlier than 4 p.m. from October 1 to April 1. Receptacles must also be removed from their collection place by 9 p.m. on collection day. If collection occurs after 4 p.m., receptacles must be removed by 9 a.m. the next day. Failure to comply could result in a $100 to $300 fine.
State Senator Tony Avella blasted the DSNY, saying the policy was not established under the necessary rulemaking procedures established in the City Administrative Procedure Act (CAPA), which he said requires public comment on proposed rules.
“Unfortunately, Ms. Kelly is not the only one affected by the issuance of significant fines based on this void policy,” Avella said. “[DSNY] has ignored all of CAPA’s requirements in establishing and implementing this policy, resulting in the issuance of significant fines against many alleged violators.”
According to Chief Keith Mellis, spokesperson for the DSNY, the statutory mandate, as per the New York City Administrative Code, goes back many decades and states that “refuse must be stored in the building and not placed out until the time for removal by the department.”
“Using common sense and as a courtesy to New Yorkers, the Department has exercised discretion in enforcing the law and [has] not required citizens to place their refuse out beginning at 6 a.m. which is the time when department collection generally begins,” Mellis said. “Instead, the Department has reasonably allowed residents plenty of time to place out their refuse in the late afternoon and evening on the day before scheduled collection. In so doing, the Department is reasonably enforcing the statute which is critical to protecting public health.”
Homeowners unsure of their collection schedules can visit www.nyc.gov/dsny.