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Though some are hailing it as a solution to a perceived inundation of unwanted fliers and pamphlets, new regulations that the Department of Sanitation trotted out this week reveal why city bureaucrats deserve some of the ridicule they so often receive.
Up until now, if a homeowner did not want restaurants, stores, supermarkets and other local businesses leaving fliers, a simple sign could request a reprieve from the pamphleting.
Indeed, several neighborhood groups created tasteful little laminated “No fliers” signs that appeared to be doing the job perfectly well. Since the signs started proliferating in Brownstone Brooklyn, the problem (such as it is) faded from the agenda of our headline-seeking pols.
But this week, the city unveiled an entirely new bureaucratic morass designed to “solve” what isn’t really a problem. Under the new rules, if a business leaves fliers at a house where a “No fliers” sign is hanging, the business can be hit with a $250 fine.
Oh, but there’s a catch — and as Fiorella LaGuardia might have said, it’s a “beaut.”
As our Mike McLaughlin reveals on page 14 of this week’s edition, those nice little laminated signs that neighborhood groups have been handing out are not big enough — or filled with enough bureaucratic jargon — to meet the letter of the new law.
Under the new regs, the signs must be a monstrous five inches tall and seven inches wide. And they must include the following language in letters at least one inch high: “Do Not Place Unsolicited Advertising Materials on This Property.” Isn’t that attractive?
Then, if the homeowner wants the offending merchant to feel pain — to the tune of $250 per violation — he must download a “citizen complaint form,” collect the unwanted fliers, and mail them to a Sanitation Department enforcement office on Shore Parkway.
Not only does this put the burden on homeowners, but it is pretty clear that there will be far more paper wasted in enforcing this jury-rigged system than was ever generated by the fliers.
There’s an even larger problem with the new law: Residents of multi-unit buildings are at the mercy of building owners as to whether they can receive restaurant menus and news of sales and bargains in their own neighborhood — information they may actually want.
The law allows the building owner — not each individual tenant — to put up the “No fliers” sign. We think that this is a clear violation of the business owners’ free speech rights and the rights of tenants to get information about their own communities.
Naturally, the politicians who crafted the law exempted a particularly irksome offender: their own fliers.
Isn’t that convenient?
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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