Amid the revocation of doorfront trash collection service by the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), a group of residents residing on four private streets in Bay Ridge announced the filing of a lawsuit against DSNY on Tuesday, July 18, in an effort to have the service reinstated.
The lawsuit comes approximately four months after after trash collection on Wogan Terrace (94th and 95th Streets between Fifth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway), Hamilton Walk (94th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues), Lafayette Walk (94th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues) and Barwell Terrace (97th and 98th Streets between Third and Fourth Avenues) was halted by DSNY. Despite some private streets receiving homeside garbage collection service for over 80 years, DSNY cited safety concerns as the reasoning behind the policy, which residents were notified of in February and went into effect on March 13.
“We on the alley streets pay property taxes to the city, no different than any other homeowner. When the city collects those taxes, it doesn’t ask us if our homes are located on public streets or private streets, it just cashes the check,” said Bill Larney, a longtime resident of Barwell Terrace. “We ask no more from the city than any other property owner, but we also expect no less.”
According to the lawsuit, DSNY workers formerly collected trash on the alley streets by rolling a cart with a large barrel down the alley and emptying resident trash receptacles into the barrel. The barrel was then taken to a small truck waiting on the public street and emptied. Since March 13, however, residents have been forced to place their garbage receptacles curbside at the crossing public street on collection day.
In a response to an inquiry made by Community Board 10 into an explanation of the policy, DSNY noted that “to serve a private street, a DSNY employee must be able to safely drive and normally maneuver a 25 yard collection truck to protect the safety of DSNY workers,” and that DSNY “never had ‘direct knowledge’ of the collection practice on the street and only learned of it on a review of collection routes in Community District 10.”
The lawsuit alleges that no known injuries have ever been sustained by a sanitation worker as a result of garbage collection on one of the aforementioned streets.
“As everybody here does, I applaud New York’s Strongest. That’s why we want them back, because they’re really good at what they did. Sanitation has done a superior job here for all those years,” said the residents’ lawyer Stephen Harrison. “Despite our strong support for them, it’s not any more dangerous to pick up trash here in a private street than it is to pick up garbage out there on the public street.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the policy does not take into account the effect that the garbage has on residents living on the public crossing street where it must now be placed.
“We have to consider all the different types of environmental impacts here,” said Harrison. “Noise, odor, the impact on the quality of life of the community. All of those things must be considered.”
In a call placed by Councilmember Vincent Gentile to DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Gentile was told that private street residents would have to indemnify sanitation workers in order for them to collect trash on private streets.
“I read the reasoned arguments, and I think we have a winning argument here on many, many counts,” said Gentile, who was contacted by Larney in regards to the policy change at the end of February. “When you talk to to the sanitation workers and their union, they say ‘look, we’re in the job of picking up trash and we will go anywhere to pick up the trash. That’s our job and that’s what we’ll do.’ Workers themselves have no problems coming down the private streets.”
The lawsuit was filed on June 26 and DSNY had not filed responding papers as of press time. To view the lawsuit, click here. To view other documents pertaining to the lawsuit, visit https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/CaseSearch and enter the case number 512565 and year 2017. Click on the case number and and a list of documents will appear.
This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.