Residents: Can E. 15th Street recycling center

Bad neighbors: Bob Kane, owner of the eye glasses retailer Eyes on Avenue U, says he has been losing business ever since an unsanitary and illegally operated recycling center opened shop next door.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

A controversial E. 15th Street recycling center is a smelly roach magnet that’s clogging up the sidewalks and driving away neighborhood shoppers, say angry merchants and residents who want the repugnant business canned.

Critics claim that the business between Avenues U and V — which they say is turning a pretty profit from redeeming recycled bottles and cans — has been slapped with more than $1,000 in fines for flagrantly violating state law, yet its owners brazenly continue to operate.

Neighbors say the business is literally turning their stomachs.

“When they open up the door, between the beer and the rotting sugar, the smell is just terrible,” said Bob Kane, who owns an eyeglass store next to the center — whose signs are in Chinese.

The business has been operating without the approval of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which registers recycling operations, say critics.

A spokesman for the agency said the business had filed the necessary paperwork, but failed to provide basic information such as the names of the owner, operator, and transporter — subjecting itself to a $500 fine — the maximum penalty on the books.

“That’s all we can do right now,” said state Department of Environmental Conservation Police Captain Francisco Lopez, who said that the E. 15th Street recycling center has quickly paid off three $500 fines since it opened.

Nearby merchants say they’re outraged that the recycling center is making enough money to pay off its fines while driving business away from everyone else.

“We’ve had people walk out of the store because of the noise,” said Kane, who complained that the incessant bottle clinking was too much for his patrons to bear. “One Saturday, three people walked out because of it.”

Gus Savaros, who has lived on E. 15th Street since 1939, says he can’t stand the constant parade of bottle collectors who bring their foul-smelling hauls to the center each day — and has given his block a new name because of their constant presence.

“We call it the Ho Chi Minh Trail,” he said. “They’re constantly bringing these overloaded shopping carts and they use those very large plastic bags you use for leaves. When they’re done, those bags are spread out all over the place.”

Residents have also seen an increase in insects since the facility opened in April.

“Bobby Kane had cockroaches in his building, and we see them in the street,” said Savaros.

Workers at the center didn’t speak English well enough to comment, but gave this paper a telephone number to contact the center’s owner. Calls to the number were not returned.

Councilman Michael Nelson (D–Sheepshead Bay) is working to shut down the operation for good, according to a spokeswoman.

“We’re all hoping that the state is going to do something,” said Deborah Weiss.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

The trash path: Can collecters wheel their finds down E. 15th Street to an illegal recycling center, which locals say is ruining businesses and lowering home values due to its unsanitary conditions.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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