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Fines just trash

Merchants along Church Avenue may be beginning to feel like they have a target on their backs.

In recent weeks, some businesses along the shopping stripreceived violations from the city’s Department of Sanitation (DOS) for improper sorting of their trash and recycling, within their stores — “Really borderline violations,” remarked Mark Dicus, the executive director of the Church Avenue Business Improvement District. “The sorting is being done, but they’re still getting tickets,” he added.

“It’s not as if they selected you,” remarked Fran St. Fort, of In Between Eatery, at 1003 Church Avenue, which received one of the tickets. “It’s random.”

Nonetheless, St. Fort is doing a slow burn over the violation, which she contends is undeserved. Within her neat little restaurant, there are two containers, one for trash and the other for recycling, which she uses for bottles, cans and the like. The little bit of paper recycling she has, she puts into the trash container temporarily, she explained, because it’s not worthwhile having a third container for so little. She said she always sorts it out before she takes her refuse to the curb for pickup by a private carter. She doesn’t put the cardboard in the recycling container, St. Fort said, because she wants to make it easy and neat for bottle collectors to pick through the container and get the cans and bottles they can claim deposits on.

But, the inspector who came into her business didn’t see it that way. When he saw the two containers, he asked where she stored her cardboard, St. Fort recalled. “I said, I don’t have a lot. His main concern was that the few pieces of cardboard I had were in the container with the regular garbage inside the store.” She hasn’t yet gone to fight the ticket she said, because she runs her business herself, so that taking the time to plead her case means closing up while she is away.

Drugs Care Pharmacy, at 1001 Church Avenue, got a similar violation. The inspector, recalled Mohammed Islam, a pharmacy technician, “Came inside, looking around. He said we have to have a sign her saying recycling area, and we have to have another saying paper and cardboard only.”

The July 8th ticket charges the pharmacy with “fail(ing) to have signs posted explaining how and what materials to recycle in maintenance area where garbage and recyclables are collected and stored.”

“He came to the whole neighborhood and gave everyone a ticket,” Islam stressed.

The pharmacy staff, “Does the recycling inside at the end of the day,” explained Pharmacist Mohammad Tehfe. “We don’t have all the containers the way they wanted, but when we take it out, the paper is on the side, the plastic is on the side and the garbage is by itself,” he added. The sorting is done after hours, Tehfe added, because, “During the day, it gets busy and we don’t always have time.”

A DOS spokesperson defended the agent’s actions. “Sanitation officers are allowed to enter commercial businesses and inspect whether or not they are complying with the city’s sanitation laws.Anyone who feels they received a summons in error may plead their case before the Environmental Control Board, as the department does not adjudicate summonses,” said Matthew LiPani, a DOS spokesperson.

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