Sanitation inspectors asked to back off

Private carting stickers like these help the city’s sanitation department determine if businesses are buying trash-removal services required by law. Photo by Victor Chu

Councilman Jimmy Vacca is tired of the trashy treatment some merchants in his district are receiving from the sanitation department. He has called on the commissioner to stop the agents from prying into the business records of area shopkeepers.

After members of the Pelham Bay Merchants Association were exposed to DSNY enforcement agents who demanded to see copies of their most recent private sanitation invoices, Vacca dashed off a letter to sanitation commissioner.

City regulations require that all commercial businesses must have an active agreement with private carters because the city’s sanitation department only removes residential garbage. Vacca pointed out the limits of the DSNY rules in an April 9 letter to commissioner John Doherty.

“Many of our merchants are struggling as it is and I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask that the city take their concerns into account when we talk about how to enforce our sanitation code,” Vacca said. “I think it’s a bit much to ask all business owners to have their bills on site at all times, especially when there are other ways to find out whether a business has a valid carting contract. I’m going to hold the city’s feet to the fire on this one.”

Vacca stated in his letter that the primary concern of merchants is that many are not present at all times in their stores and do not feel comfortable leaving financial documents with their employees.

Furthermore, Vacca stated the Department of Sanitation’s Digest of Codes makes no mention of an invoice requirement, stating only that a copy of the carting contract must remain on-site and be produced upon the request of DSNY personnel.

Some members of the Pelham Bay Merchants Association led the charge against the sanitation department after they said they were informed new tactics would be used by enforcement agents.

One merchant stressed that whatever the disagreement with enforcement practices, it is still the responsibility of the business owners to make sure they have active carting agreements.

“The Sanitation Enforcement Agents have a job to do,” said PBMA recording secretary Matt Santiago. “All of this boils down to personal responsibility.”

A spokesman for the sanitation department said that they were in receipt of Councilman Vacca’s letter, and that the matter was under review.

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