As garbage continues to pile up along Avenue U, local merchants are complaining the city’s Department of Sanitation is targeting them with an avalanche of summonses.
Compounding the situation is that many of the merchants along the strip between Ocean and Coney Island Avenues are Asian immigrants with limited English language skills.
“They are giving merchants lots of tickets,” said Sam Tsang, a Community Board 15 member, who is also affectionately known as the “Mayor of Avenue U.” “The corner (litter) baskets are constantly overflowing and the merchants on the strip try to clean it up, but litter blows in front of their shops creating a big mess.”
Tsang said the DOS stopped picking up the corner litter baskets on Saturday, and now do it on Sunday instead.
On Saturdays, the DOS enforcement agents come after 11 a.m. and stay until 4 p.m. and give merchants tickets for not cleaning their sidewalks, he said.
CB 15 Chair Theresa Scavo said she has receivednumerous complaints from merchants on Avenue U about excessive ticketing .
Scavo responded by sending letters to the city’s Environmental Control Board telling them that notices need to be sent out to the Asian merchants in their native dialect on how to store and sort garbage.
Part of the problem is residents who live above these shops often have nowhere to store their garbage. While the side streets get regular residential garbage pick ups, Avenue U doesn’t get the same kind of service, she said.
DOS spokesperson Keith Mellis replied that residents do not need to put their trash in cans.
They can put their trash in black plastic bags and leave it on the sidewalk, he said.
Mellis said garbage collection on this strip of Avenue U is done every Wednesday and Saturday, and Monday and Thursday with recyclables done on Saturday and Monday.
The corner litter baskets are collected on Sundays as well as the other days when the sanitation crews are out on Avenue U, he said.
Mellis said the corner litter baskets are also collected on Saturdays and perhaps crews missed the last Saturday because of the snow.
Mellis did not have figures as to how many tickets have been given merchants along the strip in the past few months, but emphasized that the DOS is not profiling Asian merchants because of their lack of language skills.
“The Department’s Enforcement Division is entrusted with enforcing the city’s sanitation rules and regulations.Our field officers, whether they be Sanitation Enforcement Agents or Sanitation Police, will write violations if sighted,” he said.
City Councilmember Mike Nelson, who represents the area, said while some merchants do not bundle their trash properly most comply fully with sanitation ordinances.
“I will get together with Sam (Tsang) and go over things with them (merchants) to explain what can be done in a proper way,” said Nelson.
“I will also contact sanitation for being overzealous and to go easy on them (merchants),” he added.