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Neighbors sue city over end of private-street trash pick up

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What a drag!

The city must reverse a recent demand that residents of four private streets in Bay Ridge must now haul their trash bins to the corner of the nearest public street for pick up, according to a lawsuit filed by the residents. The sudden policy change puts an undue burden on neighbors both on and off the affected streets said one resident.

“They didn’t really investigate the policy before they put it into effect,” said Bill Larney, who lives on Barwell Terrace. “One of the unintended consequences is that we have a number of elderly and another lady with bad legs. One woman has to bring her garbage from her house almost a whole city block.”

For 80 years, according to Larney, sanitation workers have been walking onto Barwell Terrace, Wogan Terrace, Hamilton Walk, and Lafayette Walk to collect trash household trash outside homes without incident. But the city sent out a notice to residents in March that residents would have to start lugging their trash to a public street to be picked up — ostensibly for the safety of the sanitation workers.

In a June 5 letter to Community Board 10, the Department of Sanitation’s director of community affairs, Henry Ehrhardt explained that its workers would no longer collect from the private streets — which are too narrow for a truck — due to safety concerns.

So now more than a dozen household on Barwell Terrace alone are now forced to dump all their trash at the midblock curb of 97th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues, which creates new problems, according to CB10’s district manager.

“The adjoining public streets are in front of other people’s homes, so you’re bringing 16 homes’ worth of trash in front of your neighbor’s home,” said Josephine Beckmann. “An agency of the city of New York is asking homeowners to put their refuse in front of someone else’s home.”

The reason for the sudden change, according to Ehrhardt, was that the department only just discovered that workers had been collecting from the private streets for the past several decades. But both Beckmann and Larney said they suspect the change is related to the recent rollout of the city’s organics collection program, which introduced new dual-bin trucks and additional employee responsibilities for pickups.

The local councilmember poked holes in the department’s safety rationale.

“The Department of Sanitation’s argument that Sanitation workers cannot go onto private property is ridiculous,” Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) said in a statement. “City workers of all stripes, from members of the Fire Department to our brave police officers, go onto private property to perform their job every day in our city.”

Gentile also pointed out the irony of the city citing worker safety for the change, when they’re forcing residents to pile “40 cans and bags of garbage” onto the curb, creating trip hazards and a new liability issue for the city.

Residents of the four private streets affected filed suit against the city and Department of Sanitation on June 26 seeking restoration of service.

Another possible remedy could come out of the city’s effort to identify and acquire all private streets in the city in order to bring them under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation for maintenance purposes, a process set in motion by legislation introduced by Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie).

The city’s Law Department is currently reviewing the lawsuit.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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