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Court decision expected soon in Bay Ridge trash suit

Residents of four Bay Ridge streets who filed a lawsuit against the city over garbage collections will soon find out if a judge agrees with them or if their trashy troubles will continue.

Hon. Katherine Levine, the judge presiding over the case, is expected to issue her ruling within days, according to Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the New York State Unified Court System.

“A decision on this case will be handed down by the end of the week,” Chalfen told this newspaper in an email on Monday.

A group of residents living on four private streets filed suit in 2017 to reverse a decision by the Department of Sanitation to stop picking up their household trash.

The residents live on Wogan Terrace (off 94th Street between Fifth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway), Hamilton Walk and Lafayette Walk (perpendicular to 94th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues) and Barwell Terrace (off 97th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues).

Several residents who live on nearby public streets also signed onto the lawsuit.

The DOS policy change, which went into effect on March 13, 2017, means that residents have to lug their own trash to the nearest public street for collection.

Up until 2017, sanitation workers collected the trash on the private streets just as they did on public streets.

The plaintiffs, who have been waiting nearly two years for the case to move through the court system, are growing impatient, according to Stephen Harrison, the lawyer representing them.

“We’ve gone through two winters. It’s taking a long time. But our courts are overburdened. And I’m sure the judge is considering this case carefully,” he said.

Bill Larney, a resident of Barwell Terrace, said many of his neighbors are starting to believe the lawsuit is hopeless and that “you can’t fight City Hall.”

Harrison filed an Article 78 lawsuit, an action that seeks to reverse a decision made by city government. “You’re not suing for monetary damages in an Article 78,” Harrison said.

Chalfen expressed some sympathy, but said the courts are busy with many cases.

“Understandably, the perceived lack of movement in this Article 78 lawsuit can be maddening, especially with an ongoing situation as in this case. Judge Levine sits in the City Part, where the majority of lawsuits in Kings County, against New York City agencies, are heard,” he said.

Meanwhile, residents are still stuck hauling their household garbage long distances that in some cases are the length of a football field.

Amanda Regnier, a resident of Wogan Terrace, said that for her and her family, it’s an inconvenience. “For us, it’s a pain in the neck. But I have a neighbor who has arthritis in her hands. For her, it isn’t just an inconvenience. It’s a real hardship,” she told this newspaper.

“It’s tough, especially on the older people. There’s a noticeable amount of people over the age of 65 living on my block,” Larney said.

And when there are changes in the sanitation collection schedule and homeowners don’t get a chance to bring the garbage out in a timely fashion, the trash just piles up, according to Regnier. “We have a beautiful, picturesque block. But the trash becomes an eyesore,” she said.

Regnier said the garbage pile up could also lead to health hazards. “There have been raccoons on the block,” she said.

In its original letter to homeowners, DOS officials cited safety concerns for sanitation workers as the reason for the rules change.

“We were told if a sanitation worker falls and hurts his knee, someone will sue. But city employees are insured by the city,” Larney said.

He charged that the city, in effect, is “telling us to violate the administrative code.”

It is a violation to place your household trash in front of another person’s home.

“Homeowners on the public streets now have piles of other people’s trash in front of their homes. That’s not fair to them,” said Harrison, who added that it opens those homeowners up to sanitation code violations.

Councilmember Justin Brannan said he is on the side of the residents.

“The city collecting trash on private streets dates back almost a century! I have no idea why the city thought they could just cut this service out of nowhere and we would be OK with it,” Brannan said. “The homeowners of Wogan Terrace, Lafayette Walk, Hamilton Walk and Barwell Terrace pay taxes just like everyone else and deserve to have their garbage picked up just like everyone else.”

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