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Recycling: get ready for fines.

As the grace periods for recycling come to an end throughout the Big Apple, many owners and managers find themselves yearning for the good-old days when garbage was just garbage.

While recycling is becoming a normal part of life for many New Yorkers, other residents continue to throw recyclables into their regular trash. Cooperators and building owners are educating supers and tenants as they nervously await recycling violations and fines.

Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island residents are permitted to be fined, but recycling police are. currently concentrating efforts on giving out "educational" warnings in Manhattan and the Bronx. Pickups expandes in those boroughs to include newspapers, magazines, phone books, bottles, cans, plastic bottles and jugs and fines will begin March 16 and June 2 respectively.

According to the Sanitation Department's Outreach Coordinator Pat Grayson, owners should currently be under a barrage of warning tickets. These are handed out together with recycling brochures and are being used as educational tools. Once the grace period is over, she expects owners will not receive so many tickets.

Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives said, "Sanitation keeps saying, 'It is not to be punitive and not to line the coffers of the city.'

And my very, very strong hope is that there won't be a blitz of tickets and the education process will continue."

"All the threats of punitive monetary beating up haven't taken place," Grayson insisted. "This department's position is not to beat somebody up to recycle or else ticket them."

But there are those that need the hit to the pocketbook in order to comply, she admitted.

Pansy Mullings, assistant commissioner for Enforcement, said whenever they see violations they will issue summonses. The fines are $25 for the first summons while repeat offenders can receive $50 fines rising to $500 for each bag, with a maximum of $2,500.

The apartment building owner can be fined for failure to post signs, provide containers or failure to provide the place for containers. If there is recycling material such as cans mixed in with bagged garbage, the fine would go to the tenant if they can be identified, but if there is garbage in the recycling can, she said, a fine would go to the owner.

That is one of several problematic recycling issues facing owners, said John J. Gilbert III, president of Rent Stabilization Association. "The responsibility of separating out the recyclables has to be left in the hands of the person generating the garbage," he said. "What happens if someone walks by and throws a slice of pizza in the recyclables?"

Gilbert said the owners don't really need another sign in the lobby and he is also concerned about where to put the material. "There are some buildings where it's difficult to find a place for the tenants to put the recyclables," he noted. "In a lot of these buildings such as small brownstones, they don't have the room."

Tim Forker, an environmental policy analyst with Borough President Ruth Messinger's office, said 12 part-time people, one in each Manhattan Community District office, are outreaching to owners, managers, tenants and community groups to help with local recycling.

While private owners have been accommodating, he said, it is difficult for tenants in Housing Authority developments to recycle because they must bring the material to a location outside of their building.

"We've been frustrated with the Housing Authority for not being able to provide a more convenient facility," Forker said. "We've been able to work with them but have not been successful in terms of getting more containers in the buildings."

In some of the city's nearly 1 million buildings there is plenty of room for material collection. In most others, however, the Fire Department has told supers to move materials because they present a fire hazard or would become a hazard by blocking hallways, stairways or exits in the event of

"We don't want anybody to die in a fire because somebody put garbage in the hallway," explained Fire fighter Frank Me Cabe, a spokesperson for the office of public information of the Fire Department.

"Hallways and stairwell landings are definitely out," he said, for storing recyclables. "There has to be a free and clear exit and they have to find a better place to store it."

Forker said storage is supposed to be incorporated into new building codes but that has not yet been completed. The Sanitation Department is spear-heading that effort and recently sent the Department of Buildings draft amendments. Comments were returned last week, a DOB spokesperson said.

While code changes will apply to new buildings, the majority of buildings are struggling with storage. Timothy J. Fine, senior vice president and managing director of the Charles Greenthal Group, said they purchased blue bins from the city's source.

"We got these things to put on each floor and in some cases were told it was a fire hazard," he said. "So now that you've done this, you're told you can't keep this here."

Mc Cabe has heard this complaint before and agreed, "Sanitation says 'recycle everything' and the Fire Dept. says, 'if you store it [in the wrong place] we'll give you a summons.' Owners are between a rock and a hard place."

The firemen try to be cooperative and as sensible as possible, Mc Cabe said, but, he warned, if there seems to be a hesitation or reluctance to move the materials by the super or owner, they are more likely to receive a violation or summons on the spot.

Additionally, the Fire fighter remarked, if there is a tenant/landlord dispute, the tenant could create an ongoing problem for the owner by making complaints.

Grayson agreed that tenants who hate their landlords can cause a great deal of trouble. She recounted the story of one Queens tenant who sits down every day to write complaints to different agencies. Since recycling has begun, the tenant has added this to her list of grievances against her landlord.

"She's hated the landlord for over 40 years and now she hates her new landlord," Grayson noted. "There are always those people out there and if it isn't recycling it's a dripping faucet."

Gilbert believes the first wave of people participating are those that are ecologically minded. "The problem you get," Gilbert agreed, "is the wise guy who doesn't want to play by the rules and wants to screw things up for the whole building."

"There are people who believe in recycling and saving the earth, and other people really don't care," observed Bernard Warren, director of operations for Webb & Brooker. "You may transform a few of them but for most it's an uphill battle."

Grayson agreed: "Some refuse to do it. They won't pick up after their dogs, and they won't recycle and they won't, they won't, they won't."

Webb & Brooker manages residential properties in Brooklyn and Harlem, and, Warren said, compliance varies by category. With a 40 percent compliance rate, the newspapers are easy, he said, but "the other stuff is difficult."

Warren said they would like tenants to tie up the newspapers into 12-inch stacks but "the reality is, if you can put the newspapers in this room, we'll take care of it."

They have placed small cans in the compactor rooms so supers can separate items that were put down the chute before they are crushed.

Because they have large buildings, Warren has found garbage bags from small neighboring buildings thrown in with his own, or put out in front of his building after the pickup, and they often contain recyclables. Additionally, some of his own tenants continue to throw out recyclables.

Cory Bearak, counsel and chief of staff for Councilmember Sheldon S. Leffler, a major proponent of recycling, said the regulations allow Sanitation to go after the tenant. "The Dept. of Sanitation said if we could find a bag with the person's mail in it, we can get the tenant [or neighboring building] fined," Warren said. "We won't tell them how we caught them but we will bring them to Sanitation. I feel if the city comes down on us, we come down harder on the tenants."

Gilbert wondered, "How long will it take the tenants to figure out not to put their mail in with the recyclables?"

Co-ops/condos Struggle Too

Even co-ops and condominiums are having problems. "It's still a battle and these are owners," Warren said.

They keep explaining to the cooperators that if these buildings are fined, they will receive the fine as owners. They also try to get the Tenant's Associations involved.

There are also hundreds of low income co-ops that were purchased by the tenants from the city. They now have to be reminded that they are the landlord. "They become owners," Warren observed, "but they have been tenants so long that you have to keep beating the drum to let them know that they own it."

Grayson agreed that unit owners are being more cooperative about recycling than tenants. "Those people are eventu- 4 ally responsible for any ticket," she said.

As much as the unit owners separate, Fine believes compliance "boils down to your super." Because the staff is monitoring the garbage and most residents are sorting, Fine said, when "you get a big bag full, you know who's doing it."

"If the fines come down ... they are a good inducement for compliance," Fine noted.

He said the boards are going to resent having to pay the fine and will conduct re-education campaigns. "The guilt will be used," Fine added.

The Greenthal group manages about 125 buildings, and Fine said most residents were separating newspapers, glass and cans well before the law went into effect. For the most part, he said, "The co-ops that we manage have been anxious to comply and see that the individual owners comply."

There were other buildings, however, that needed to be resent all the literature they had already received from the city and were sent additional letters from Greenthal.

Some buildings also needed bilingual information to educate domestic help. "The help is going to be the one taking the garbage out," he remarked.

If the buildings were large enough, the boards had a clean, good-looking bin room constructed on each floor. "It's quite helpful to the staff," Fine said.

In other buildings, the supers have pitched in and sort in the basement to ensure materials comply by the time the garbage reaches the street.

Marcia Taranto, president of Taranto & Associates, Inc., said all of the buildings they manage, in Manhattan from TriBeCa to 95th Street and one in Queens, are complying and noted recycling is becoming part of the routine.

"It's been one of the smoothest things we've had to do," she said.

While there have been no problems, she said it is inconvenient and has place an additional burden on the staff. "It's a pain in the neck to rinse everything out," she added.

"I'm concerned about so many concerns," Warren added. "We have asbestos, we have lead, we have Local Law 10, we have graffiti. There's so many things out there, that recycling is something you have to look at in the pecking order."
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Title Annotation:refusal of residential building owners to recycle garbage will result in fines by New York, New York Department of Sanitation
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 2, 1993
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