Braunstein seeks end to phony charity bins

By Kelsey Durham

In response to a growing number of recent resident complaints, state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) has written legislation that aims to outlaw clothing donation boxes not associated with legitimate charities.

Braunstein held a news conference last week to announce a bill, which he said he plans to introduce when the next legislative session begins that seeks to make it illegal for any company that is not a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization to place a clothing donation bin on public or private property.

The legislation also calls for a $250 first-offense fine for breaking the law followed by $500 for each additional infraction.

City law currently bans any donation bins from being placed anywhere on public property, but the five boroughs have recently seen an increase in bins falsely representing charities being dropped on private property without consent.

“You can’t walk down the block without seeing one of these things,” Braunstein said. “They’re just popping up everywhere.”

Under the current city administrative code, the city Sanitation Department cannot remove the bins until 30 days after receiving a complaint, which has created a pattern of companies moving bins off an unapproved site after 29 days before the city confiscates them. Braunstein’s bill also seeks to amend that law, making it legal for the city to remove the bins immediately.

“The problem is the 30-day period,” Braunstein said. “But we’re hopeful that a financial penalty would discourage companies from doing this.”

The growing number of illegal bins has garnered attention from community boards and civic groups recently as residents have begun complaining about the increase in donation boxes that are not associated with real charities. Braunstein said he and other local leaders believe the owners of the bins are collecting clothes and shoes and selling them for personal profit.

“When clothing is deposited in a sidewalk bin, donors are entitled to know that they are giving to a legitimate charity,” Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said. “The clothing should go to those in need. Clothing bins placed on sidewalks by fake charities create a sanitation problem and hurt those who will best be able to use the clothing.”

Braunstein said he plans to formally introduce the bill into the Assembly in early January and will make a point to stress to his colleagues how important it is to begin regulating donation bins.

He said the growing support from business owners and local business improvement districts will hopefully help other lawmakers see that the problem is “out of control” and needs to be addressed.

“I think it’s really starting to grow at an exponential rate,” Braunstein said. “It’s on everybody’s block these days. I think this is something that’s bothering a lot of different communities, so I’m confident that we’ll have a lot of support and can get it through.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at [email protected].