Members of the New York City Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management met at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Friday, September 19 to discuss a 1,200 percent spike in the presence of illegal clothing bins, which they say are now plaguing the five boroughs, and an important bill they say will combat the problem.
“First, I would like to say that there is a place in the city for clothing collection bins,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito before discussing Introduction 409, a bill that would regulate the placement of publicly accessible clothing collection bins. “They serve several important functions and they divert thousands of tons of used clothing from our waste stream that would otherwise end up in landfills.”
However, she said, “That does not give the owners of these bins the right to place them on public property where they often obstruct pedestrian traffic, are poorly maintained, and often become targets for graffiti and filled with trash.”
“[These bins] are a magnet for graffiti and trash,” stressed Department of Sanitation of New York (DSNY) Commissioner Kathryn Garcia who, alongside Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, testified in favor of the bill. “I am proud to see New York City take a leadership role in addressing [a problem that exists nationwide].”
According to Committee Chair Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, following the implementation of Local Law 30 – the first ever bill to regulate these types of bins – in 2008, there was a significant decrease in the amount of illegal clothing bins on public property. The first full year after the law was passed, Reynoso said, DSNY slapped 30-day warnings on only 56 bins. Between 2010 and 2013, that number jumped to 593 and as of June 30, 2014, there were a total of 2,093 illegally placed bins documented by DSNY.
From June 30 to the time of the meeting, an additional 976 bins were tagged by the agency. Currently, DSNY enacts a 30-to-90-day process in which DSNY workers confirm the bin is on city property, then place a sticker on the bin noting that it will be removed in 30 days, and then if the bin is still there, remove it.
However, Reynoso stressed, that 30-day grace-period has allowed the owners of many bins to “wait until day 29 and move it somewhere else,” and others to simply paint over DSNY’s warning. “It is clear that the current law is not working,” he said.
If signed into law, the bill would allow the department to immediately remove the donation bins as well as fine first-time violators $250, with repeat offenders facing a $500 fine – something both local residents and operators of legally placed collection bins were able to get behind.
If Renee Giordano, the executive director of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID), had her way, the bill would be even stricter. Giordano made two suggestions – the first that there be a size limit and the second that only legitimate charities utilize those bins on private property.
“There’s no reason why the bin should be large enough for somebody to climb into, and that’s what’s happening,” she said, noting that last year in Sunset Park alone 38 illegally placed bins were ticketed by DSNY and, from June 30 to date, another 25 have been targeted. “These bins have been a real blight on our neighborhood, and on Brooklyn.”