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By Kelsey Durham

Home and business owners in Bayside and surrounding neighborhoods have recently lodged dozens of complaints with elected officials and civic groups after seeing several clothing donation boxes that appear to be scams pop up throughout the area.

The large pink boxes with the words “clothes shoes drop” written in all capital letters on one side have been a source of concern for many residents of Bayside, Little Neck and Oakland Gardens since they started appearing throughout the area about six months ago, when Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld said the board first began receiving complaints about them.

The boxes are printed with “Our Neighborhood Recycling” on the side and a phone number with an 855 area code, but residents say they fear the drop boxes are not there to benefit legitimate charities.

“We don’t always know who does it, but there’s only one company who actually clearly marks the boxes with their organization,” said Seinfeld, who went on to identify that organization as USAgain. The group is a national textile recycling company that collects used clothing and brings it back to life in order to sell apparel at reduced costs for people who cannot afford new clothes.

A woman who answered a call placed to the phone number on the box said Our Neighborhood Recycling ships the clothes overseas but hung up without giving more details. Community leaders said they fear whomever is placing the boxes around the neighborhood is taking the clothes donations and selling them for personal profit.

Seinfeld said the city’s administrative code has clear regulations on where drop boxes can be placed, and no boxes are to be put anywhere on public property. Donation boxes are only allowed to be placed on private property, she said, with the permission of the owner.

Many homeowners and restaurant owners have called to complain about boxes being placed on their property overnight without their consent.

Seinfeld also said the city code requires that the city Sanitation Department, which deals with any illegal donation boxes, gives 30 days notice before it is legally allowed to haul them away. In the meantime, she said Sanitation inspectors who are called to the sites each time a complaint is filed have begun placing stickers on the boxes warning people not to donate any items of clothing.

“These people put this box somewhere knowing they can leave it there for 30 days before anyone can do anything about it,” Seinfeld said. “They’re attracting people to come and throw all kinds of garbage around it and I think people are under the impression they’re giving to a charity when they’re really not.”

Michael Feiner, president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association, said his group has also received complaints from residents and said he forwards them to CB 11, elected officials and the 111th Precinct to spread the word about the problem. Feiner also said the complaints have become much more frequent in recent months.

Seinfeld said anyone concerned about a box that may be illegal should file a complaint either with CB 11 or Sanitation so the agencies can continue to address the issue.

“It’s definitely a problem,” she said. “It’s an eyesore.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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