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Business boosters seek to scrub sidewalks of clothing bins

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Ban the bin!

Neighborhoods above Prospect Park have been hit by the scourge of illegal, sidewalk-hogging clothing donation bins that have long plagued commercial corridors in Bay Ridge and elsewhere, according to business groups that are backing proposed Council legislation to tighten restrictions on the boxes. Current rules give bin owners 30 days to remove the containers, which often advertise clothing recycling and occasionally tout charitable contributions but are generally for-profit. That grace period is way too long to let the bins sit in a public walkway, one local administrator said.

“I own a big metal box too. It says ‘Ford,’ front and back,” said Robert Perris, district manager of Downtown’s Community Board 2. “If I parked it on the sidewalk, it would be gone within days, if not hours.”

The metal bins have been proliferating citywide during the past few years, according to trash commissioner Kathryn Garcia, highlighting the problem at a Sept. 19 Council hearing. The sanitation department logged 2,093 reports of illegal bins in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended in June, up from just 97 in the 2012 fiscal year, Garcia said.

“The dramatic increase in numbers highlights the fact that the current law is no longer effective in deterring bin owners,” Garcia said at the hearing.

Current rules do not impose a fine for illegally placed bins, and area business alliances say that after the city issues warnings, clothing recyclers simply move their bins.

“It’s like a game of Whac-a-Mole,” said Phillip Kellog, director of the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill merchant group the Fulton Area Business Alliance. A coalition of merchant groups including Kellog’s, as well as ones from Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Park Slope, is lining up behind the law that would require the city to remove bins on public property immediately, fine bin owners, and bill bin owners for the removal costs. Representatives from Myrtle Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, and the Fifth Avenue pro-business groups all testified at the Council hearing last week in support of such a clampdown.

“They are unsightly, block access, and attract trash and graffiti, said Meredith Phillips Almeida, from the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, which also operates in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

The bins are so out of control that one turned up in a crosswalk in Almeida’s area, she said.

The head of the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District complained that a bin in his area was bolted to the sidewalk.

“Lets face it: the owners of these bins are playing games with the city’s law,” said Mark Caserta, director of the Fifth Avenue group, at the Council hearing.

Josef Szende, the Atlantic Avenue merchant rep, said Council members should tighten restrictions as soon as possible.

“I think this issue is a slam-dunk,” Szende said. “And I hope the Council dunks it.”

The anti-bin bill was penned by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D–Bronx) and has the backing of 22 Council members, including Jumaane Williams (D–East Flatbush), Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park), and Mathieu Eugene (D–Flatbush). Notably absent from the list of pols supporting the proposal are councilmen Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) and Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill) and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Fort Greene), whose districts contain the agitated Brooklyn business boosters.

Bins placed on private property with the owner’s permission are not illegal and are not in the group’s sights.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Dick from Williamsburg says:
They are here in Williamsburg too they get confiscated by nydos then bin company claims them on 29th of 30 day claim period. The n a large flatbed or box truck with lift comes along during overnight. Hours and replaces them on the street sometimes if nypd is around right in gutter of the street to make a quick getaway city needs to update law on this matter
Sept. 23, 2014, 10:57 am
bkdude64 says:
Yes, they are eyesores. and dangerous and obstruct pathways
Sept. 23, 2014, 8:35 pm
Wade from Washington says:
Hopefully, the city will take action to resolve this dilemma, which is not just happening in New York. Collection bins are reportedly causing blight and public right-of-way issues in numerous cities nationwide. Many towns have further expressed concern over out-of-town nonprofit and for-profit clothes collectors causing donations to dwindle at local charities. And some even complain that non-local companies are getting a free ride ― paying no local taxes or fees ― even while little or none of the proceeds from their collections benefit the local populace.

Sadly, even bins that are well-kept and appear more legit are sometimes not what they appear to be. Of particular concern to me are the nonprofit ‘Planet Aid’, with its yellow bins, and the for-profit ‘USAgain,’ which owns the green and white containers. Planet Aid’s regional warehouse is in Fairfield, NJ; USAgain’s local branch is in Mount Vernon, NY.

Both companies have placed their drop-boxes in the city as well as in many states across the country. And both have faced a storm of media criticism for disturbing reasons.

1) For starters, the Chicago-based CharityWatch gave Planet Aid an “F” grade after analyzing its 2012 tax form and audited financial statements, determining that Planet Aid spent only 27% of its expenses on programs.

Google search:

CharityWatch Debunks Planet Aid's Recycling Program

2) Worse, Danish prosecutors have linked Planet Aid to an alleged cult called the Tvind Teachers Group. Five leaders of this group are Interpol fugitives wanted in their native Denmark in connection with a multimillion-dollar tax-fraud and embezzlement scheme.

Google search:

“Kindness into Cash” - exposé of used clothes company Planet Aid - pt. 1

[More info is in the above report's description box; click ‘Show more’ while on that page.]

3) As for USAgain, reports going back a decade suggest that the for-profit company, to quote one TV news investigation, “... routinely pretended to be a charity so business owners wouldn't ask for rent on the bin space.”

Danish authorities have also tied USAgain to the Tvind Teachers Group, although, like Planet Aid, none of its officers are wanted by Interpol. Both companies’ laborers and local managers are probably just regular folks trying to hold down a job. But the text of Part 1 of the following report quotes a former USAgain branch manager who says she had been pressured to join the TG, reportedly an elite group within the broader Tvind organization.

Google search:

Millions In Clothing Donations Diverted From Charity – kirotv

Local Mayor Wants Red Bins Out - USAgain in Seattle – YouTube

[More info is in the 2nd report's description box; click ‘Show more’ while on that page.]

Thanks for the chance to express my opinion. Research before you donate.
Sept. 24, 2014, 6:23 am
Wade from Washington says:
Hopefully, the city will take action to resolve this dilemma, which is not just happening in New York. Collection bins are reportedly causing blight and public right-of-way issues in numerous cities nationwide. Many towns have further expressed concern over out-of-town nonprofit and for-profit clothes collectors causing donations to dwindle at local charities. And some even complain that non-local companies are getting a free ride ― paying no local taxes or fees ― even while little or none of the proceeds from their collections benefit the local populace.

Sadly, even bins that are well-kept and appear more legit are sometimes not what they appear to be. Of particular concern to me are the nonprofit ‘Planet Aid’, with its yellow bins, and the for-profit ‘USAgain,’ which owns the green and white containers. Planet Aid’s regional warehouse is in Fairfield, NJ; USAgain’s local branch is in Mount Vernon, NY.

Both companies have placed their drop-boxes in the city as well as in many states across the country. And both have faced a storm of media criticism for disturbing reasons.

1) For starters, the Chicago-based CharityWatch gave Planet Aid an “F” grade after analyzing its 2012 tax form and audited financial statements, determining that Planet Aid spent only 27% of its expenses on programs.

Google search:

CharityWatch Debunks Planet Aid's Recycling Program

2) Worse, Danish prosecutors have linked Planet Aid to an alleged cult called the Tvind Teachers Group. Five leaders of this group are Interpol fugitives wanted in their native Denmark in connection with a multimillion-dollar tax-fraud and embezzlement scheme.

Google search:

“Kindness into Cash” - exposé of used clothes company Planet Aid - pt. 1

[More info is in the above report's description box; click ‘Show more’ while on that page.]

3) As for USAgain, reports going back a decade suggest that the for-profit company, to quote one TV news investigation, “... routinely pretended to be a charity so business owners wouldn't ask for rent on the bin space.”

Danish authorities have also tied USAgain to the Tvind Teachers Group, although, like Planet Aid, none of its officers are wanted by Interpol. Both companies’ laborers and local managers are probably just regular folks trying to hold down a job. But the text of Part 1 of the following report quotes a former USAgain branch manager who says she had been pressured to join the TG, reportedly an elite group within the broader Tvind organization.

Google search:

Millions In Clothing Donations Diverted From Charity – kirotv

Local Mayor Wants Red Bins Out - USAgain in Seattle – YouTube

[More info is in the 2nd report's description box; click ‘Show more’ while on that page.]

Thanks for the chance to express my opinion. Research before you donate.
Sept. 24, 2014, 6:23 am

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