Today’s news:

Law would destroy my livelihood!

The Brooklyn Paper

So let me get this straight: Councilman Simcha Felder’s mom is calling the shots at City Hall?

It certainly appears that way after the Borough Park Democrat unveiled a bill to prevent legitimate businesses like this newspaper from informing the public — a bill he wrote after his mother got a ticket for having an unclean front yard.

Mamaleh got the ticket because a gust of wind blew an advertising circular into her yard and she wasn’t there to clean it up before a Department of Sanitation enforcement officer happened by.

Days later, her good son proposed the legislation, which would “make it illegal to distribute unsolicited materials, fliers, and circulars to any property that posts a sign indicating that it doesn’t wish to receive them.”

Under Felder’s bill, the city would distribute “No solicitation” signs to property owners all over town — standardized decals similar to the recycling stickers that the Sanitation Department hands out to plaster on your garbage cans.

It sounds good on paper, man — but not to this paper man.

Felder’s bill is so riddled with flaws — some of them big enough to drive a First Amendment through! — that I almost don’t know where to start.

Actually, I know exactly where to start:

1. True, many homeowners don’t want to have their front steps littered with advertising circulars, political flyers and, yes, even this newspaper.

But what about renters who live in a 40-unit building? Suppose their building owner puts up one of Simcha’s Anti-Solicitation Signs? Just because the building owner is tired of cleaning up circulars doesn’t mean that residents should be denied their right to consume legitimate advertising or news.

“I admit, that’s a good point,” Felder told me this week. “But if a majority of the residents of those buildings told the owner to let the newspapers and circulars come, he would listen to them, no?”

No. He’s the guy who gets the tickets, so why should he care about his renters’ desire to read The Brooklyn Paper?

2. What about during election season? I’ll admit that I didn’t love getting a daily campaign flier from Carl Andrews during last year’s congressional race, but I’ll be damned if some politician is going to tell me that I can’t hear from … politicians.

Indeed, what kind of lawmaker would seek to prevent other pols from getting their message out?

“We couldn’t exempt politicians or people would ridicule the bill,” Felder said. (Insert your own “ridicule the bill” joke here.)

3. So if a Starbucks coffee cup, rather than an advertising circular, had blown into Mama Felder’s lot, her loyal son would be going after coffeeshops?

“Well, I guess if coffee cups were blowing all over the place, we would,” Felder said.

Perhaps we should print this newspaper on Styrofoam!

Full disclosure: There is not a resident of this city who is more vigilant against litter than your far-from-humble columnist. In addition to my editing chores here, I typically follow around pedestrians and pounce on them when they drop litter on the street, picking up the offensive pollutant and handing it back to them with a polite (but snarky), “Excuse me, you dropped this.”

If a soft-drink container comes flying out of a car window, I’m the guy who tosses it right back into the vehicle from which it came. Being anti-Felder doesn’t mean I’m pro-litter.

That said, I don’t want to minimize the outrage that some of my fellow Brooklynites feel about getting hit with trash summonses when someone else’s litter blows onto their front stoop.

But if your landlord puts up a sign preventing “unsolicited” material, there is no telling how much information — whether it’s news of a sale at Fairway or news of a drunk-driving state Assemblyman (see below) — that you’ll be missing.

There are better ways to fight litter than discouraging the free exchange of ideas and information. Last time I checked, that was considered the hallmark of democracy.

Until Mama Felder got a ticket.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at gkuntzman@cnglocal.com
Pin It
Print this story Permalink

Reader Feedback

john says:
This is getting out of hand
www.zarinas.com
Oct. 16, 2007, 7:25 pm
john says:
This is getting out of hand
Oct. 16, 2007, 7:25 pm
Jason Kibby says:
Unsolicited newspapers are not fodder for first amendment arguments. Nobody is denying your right to free speech by telling you to stop littering your wares all over my lawn.

Mail it to me. Then I cannot complain.

Too expensive to send via mail?

Then knock on my door and ask if I want it.

To inconvenient to schedule your litter delivery around my time at home?

Too bad.

The First Amendment is, perhaps, the greatest fundamental element of our society.

It does not protect litter, and I'm sick of getting subscriber-inflating ad junk on my lawn.
Oct. 16, 2007, 10:22 pm
G. Miki Hayden says:
Felder is obviously not overly bright. He would make it ILLEGAL to feed the pigeons? The guy has fascistic inclinations, not particularly admirable in someone working for the public. Anything that bothers him, personally, he wants to pass a law about? Very, very uncool.
Nov. 13, 2007, 6:14 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Links