Tell me, are you feeling lucky with your garbage?
That paraphrased Clint Eastwood line appeared to be the question when two gun-toting city Department of Sanitation (DOS) officers walked into the J and A Pizzeria, 7820 New Utrecht Avenue, last week.
“They wanted to know where my storage area was and where I put my recyclables,” recalled pizzeria owner Joseph Mannino. “So I showed them the area and they said I had to have signs showing where the cans, bottles and cardboard went. I told them I never heard of sanitation coming in with revolvers asking about this.”
Mannino said the DOS agents told him they could do whatever they want, including going into any establishment and writing up violations if there aren’t recyclable signs.
“They also went into my garbage inside the store towards the front and found a plastic bottle,” said Mannino. “So I says to them, ‘Listen I didn’t put it at curbside and everything gets separated at the end of the day.’ He said, ‘Then I’ll write you two violations, one for not having the signs and another for having a bottle in your garbage.’”
Mannino said the agents told him the law has been on the books for some years, and he asked why he couldn’t get off with a warning.
According to Mannino, one of the agents told him that’s what Mayor Bloomberg wants.
Mannino said the agents also ticketed several groceries and restaurants on the busy commercial block for the same infractions.
DOS spokesperson Kathy Dawkins replied that there is no Bloomberg-ordered crackdown in existence and the commercial recycling laws has been on the books since the mid 1990s.
“Sanitation police officers are peace officers who are permitted to be armed. They are allowed by law to enter commercial businesses and inspect whether or not the businesses are complying with the city’s recycling and sanitation laws,” said Dawkins.
“Anyone who feels they received a summons in error may plead their case before the Environmental Control Board, as the Sanitation Department does not adjudicate summonses,” she added.
Dawkins further explained the DOS has also done extensive public education to commercial businesses carefully defining what their responsibilities are regarding the city’s recycling laws.
“Information is readily available either through the Internet or calling 311. Again, the pizzeria owner can plead his case to the Environmental Control Board for adjudication,” she said.
Mannino said the fines are $25 for each violation and he’ll probably pay it as he doesn’t have the time to take the matter to court.
“I never heard of this in 30 years of my being here -- of sanitation coming into my establishment with guns and issuing a violation for recyclables,” he said.
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