So let me get this straight: Councilman Simcha Felder’s mom is calling the shots at City Hall?
It certainly appears that way after the Borough Park Democrat unveiled a bill to prevent legitimate businesses like this newspaper from informing the public — a bill he wrote after his mother got a ticket for having an unclean front yard.
Mamaleh got the ticket because a gust of wind blew an advertising circular into her yard and she wasn’t there to clean it up before a Department of Sanitation enforcement officer happened by.
Days later, her good son proposed the legislation, which would “make it illegal to distribute unsolicited materials, fliers, and circulars to any property that posts a sign indicating that it doesn’t wish to receive them.”
Under Felder’s bill, the city would distribute “No solicitation” signs to property owners all over town — standardized decals similar to the recycling stickers that the Sanitation Department hands out to plaster on your garbage cans.
It sounds good on paper, man — but not to this paper man.
Felder’s bill is so riddled with flaws — some of them big enough to drive a First Amendment through! — that I almost don’t know where to start.
Actually, I know exactly where to start:
1. True, many homeowners don’t want to have their front steps littered with advertising circulars, political flyers and, yes, even this newspaper.
But what about renters who live in a 40-unit building? Suppose their building owner puts up one of Simcha’s Anti-Solicitation Signs? Just because the building owner is tired of cleaning up circulars doesn’t mean that residents should be denied their right to consume legitimate advertising or news.
“I admit, that’s a good point,” Felder told me this week. “But if a majority of the residents of those buildings told the owner to let the newspapers and circulars come, he would listen to them, no?”
No. He’s the guy who gets the tickets, so why should he care about his renters’ desire to read The Brooklyn Paper?
2. What about during election season? I’ll admit that I didn’t love getting a daily campaign flier from Carl Andrews during last year’s congressional race, but I’ll be damned if some politician is going to tell me that I can’t hear from … politicians.
Indeed, what kind of lawmaker would seek to prevent other pols from getting their message out?
“We couldn’t exempt politicians or people would ridicule the bill,” Felder said. (Insert your own “ridicule the bill” joke here.)
3. So if a Starbucks coffee cup, rather than an advertising circular, had blown into Mama Felder’s lot, her loyal son would be going after coffeeshops?
“Well, I guess if coffee cups were blowing all over the place, we would,” Felder said.
Perhaps we should print this newspaper on Styrofoam!
Full disclosure: There is not a resident of this city who is more vigilant against litter than your far-from-humble columnist. In addition to my editing chores here, I typically follow around pedestrians and pounce on them when they drop litter on the street, picking up the offensive pollutant and handing it back to them with a polite (but snarky), “Excuse me, you dropped this.”
If a soft-drink container comes flying out of a car window, I’m the guy who tosses it right back into the vehicle from which it came. Being anti-Felder doesn’t mean I’m pro-litter.
That said, I don’t want to minimize the outrage that some of my fellow Brooklynites feel about getting hit with trash summonses when someone else’s litter blows onto their front stoop.
But if your landlord puts up a sign preventing “unsolicited” material, there is no telling how much information — whether it’s news of a sale at Fairway or news of a drunk-driving state Assemblyman (see below) — that you’ll be missing.
There are better ways to fight litter than discouraging the free exchange of ideas and information. Last time I checked, that was considered the hallmark of democracy.
Until Mama Felder got a ticket.