Gov. Spitzer has signed a bill that would make it illegal to leave menus and circulars on people’s stoops — but the new law has set off a messy situation of its own for small business owners who depend on such strategies to draw in customers.
The so-called Lawn Litter Bill will fine business owners between $250 and $1,000 for dropping delivery menus and circulars on private property if the owner has posted a sign explicitly stating that no such ads are allowed. It passed both houses of the legislature in June and Spitzer signed it into law on Monday.
“For me, it’s litter on my steps,” said Judy Stanton, the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which already distributes its own placards asking merchants to refrain from leaving ads on the stoop.
“It goes straight from my front door to my recycling can,” continued Stanton. “And sometimes I have to wash my hands because there’s dirt on there.”
The litany of complaints about circulars extends far beyond dirty hands. Residents from Brooklyn Heights to Bensonhurst complain of getting tickets for fliers that blow onto their sidewalk, and many fear that while they’re on vacation, piles of circulars make their homes targets for burglars.
The bill would allow homeowners to erect signs indicating they will not accept any literature advertising restaurants or sales. The law would not apply to newspapers, or any literature that has a nominal amount of news — though it is unclear how that would be enforced.
Political advertising is also exempt.
In rental buildings, the landlord would have the final say over whether or not the residents could receive ads, an imposition that some argue infringes on the right of tenants to receive important information while also unfairly hitting less-wealthy Brooklynites in the wallet.
Meanwhile, big-time circular distributors aren’t exactly quaking in their delivery trucks.
“We don’t think it will hurt business because we can handle the statues of the law very well,” said Kenny Herman, whose company distributes 95 percent of the circulars in Brooklyn (including the Kohl’s bundles). “We have a do-not-deliver list of our own already, and over the last two years, we think it’s expanded to include just about everyone who doesn’t want the circulars. We don’t expect it to expand much.”
Local restaurants managers are far less blase.
Kabir Ahammed, the manager of Joy Indian Restaurant, on Flatbush Avenue, wondered how he would get the word out if he couldn’t drop off menus.
“You have to tell people,” said Ahammed. “Some people don’t like menus. Others do. But it’s not a big thing to throw menus in the garbage. This law doesn’t make sense to me.”
Ahammed needn’t worry just yet. The law will not be enforced in the city until it is amended to allow Sanitation Department enforcement officers to issue tickets rather than police officers. That won’t happen until sometime next month.
But happen it will, if Councilman Simcha Felder (D–Borough Park) has anything to do with it. Felder has been the biggest local cheerleader for the legislation, and he told The Brooklyn Paper that he is eager to see the law enacted as soon as humanly possible.
“After they fix it, we will have a bill that’s perfect,” said Felder. “Somebody once called me ‘the menu killer.’ I am proud of that and hope I remain with that title forever.”
Felder is also seeking a different title: after all, he’s running for Comptroller next year.