2008-09-24 / Features

Lawn Litter Law Poses Enforcement Problems


When it was passed in 2007, the Lawn Litter Bill did not specify who would enforce it. That duty was finally assigned to the city Department of Sanitation (DOS) after an amendment was made in January 2008.

DOS Assistant Chief for Enforcement Todd Kuznitz said there are still problems with the law. "It is a difficult law to enforce," he said at the September meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet. "The problem is First Amendment rights."

The law states: "No person shall place, or cause or permit to be placed on private property any unsolicited papers, flyers, pamphlets, handbills, circulars or other materials advertising a business or soliciting business where the owner has posted, in a conspicuous location, a sign stating that the placement of such materials shall be prohibited."

The devil is in the content of the unsolicited materials, as the slightest news value makes them legal. "That's one of the reasons we don't have [DOS] agents going door to door," said Kuznitz.

In addition to posting a sign that must be at least 5 inches tall and 7 inches wide that states in legible letters at least 1 inch in size, "Do Not Place Unsolicited Advertising Materials On This Property," two or more homeowners must send the unsolicited material along with a complaint form to DOS.

"We need two complaints on the same filer to act," Kuznitz said.

Homeowners can obtain citizen complaint forms by calling the NYC Citizen's Service Center at 311 or by visiting the Department of Sanitation Web Site at www.nyc.gov.

The Lawn Litter Bill also applies to multiple dwellings where a sign must also be posted regarding unsolicited materials. However, the sign can be posted only if consent is obtained from at least one owner, tenant or occupant over 18 years of age from each dwelling unit in the building.

Citing issues of homeowner privacy as well as the need to determine the legality of content, Kuznitz said, "We really don't want [DOS] agents going door to door. That's why we require people to send in complaint forms."

Once two citizen complaints are received concerning the same unsolicited advertisements, DOS reviews the complaints and material, and if warranted, issues a notice of violation to the person responsible for leaving the unsolicited advertisement. For that reason, the citizen may have to testify at a hearing of the Environmental Control Board (ECB).

The ECB is the administrative decision body in the complaint process for quality of life laws in New York City. Fines for violations of the Lawn Litter law are $250 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for repeat offenses.

In a second presentation to the cabinet, representatives of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviewed the Collision Repair Campaign, a two-year effort to drastically reduce emissions by outreach and retraining of auto body shops that strip and then repaint cars.

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