New York Bill Would Require Photo Evidence of Sanitation Violations

sanitation department tickets
State Sen. Simcha Felder (L) and City Councilman Kalman Yeger at a press conference Thursday outside Sanitation department headquarters in Lower Manhattan. (Office of Sen. Felder)

Lawmakers from New York City decrying “fraud and corruption” in the Sanitation Department’s ticketing procedures are pushing a bill that would require Sanitation Enforcement Agents to photograph violations when issuing a summons.

At a press conference Thursday outside Sanitation headquarters in Lower Manhattan, State Sen. Simcha Felder and City Councilman Kalman Yeger presented what they say is evidence of fraud in Sanitation ticketing.

When a Brooklyn yeshiva several months ago received a $100 fine during the legal ticket-routing time for having “bags, pieces of paper and wrappers” on the ground in front of the building, the yeshiva administrators checked the surveillance cameras, which showed that neither garbage nor Sanitation Enforcement Agents were near the building during the routing time — but that an agent did show up after the permitted time, and presumably wrote the ticket then.

Moreover, say the elected officials, when evidence of fraud, like this surveillance video, is presented at a hearing, the presiding officer at OATH (the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings) should refer it to the Inspector General’s Office for an investigation. But instead, the officials say, the OATH officer finds a way to dismiss the ticket quietly on a technicality, like finding a slight error in how the ticket was written, thus protecting the corrupt Sanitation Enforcement Agent from investigation.

“Last time I checked, Americans were innocent until proven guilty,” said Felder. “This system stinks! Dirty Sanitation Enforcement Agents fabricate violations and issue tickets outside of routing hours while unscrupulous OATH officers bury the evidence. If the city wanted to solve this problem they could have done it long ago, but they have no incentive. The city makes out like a bandit by robbing hardworking New Yorkers.”

And officials say the corruption is rampant.

“My colleagues and I have frequently learned of instances of false summonses issued by DSNY’s quota agents,” said Yeger. “Often, 311 complaints of missed pickups result in a quota agent issuing a summons as a punishment for the complaint, rather than making up the missed pickup, like in other neighborhoods. We have brought these incidents to the attention of the Sanitation Department’s management, to no avail. Hopefully, this very clear evidence of corruption will push the Sanitation Department to taking action to reign in its rogue quota agents.”

Newly proposed legislation, introduced in the state Legislature by Sen. Felder and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell and in the City Council by Members Yeger and Alan Maisel, would require violations under the purview of OATH do be documented “by photographic evidence taken at the time of the issuance of a summons.”

“We have seen, time and again, the city issue tickets to New Yorkers without any proof of the condition the city is ticketing,” Barnwell said in a statement. “When people try to fight the ticket, they have no evidence to counter the allegation(s) and are found guilty. The burden should not be on the person receiving the ticket, but on the city who issues the ticket. In the 21st Century, with all the technology we have, there is zero reason why the city should not be forced to provide photographic evidence to prove the violation.”

Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein several years ago introduced a bill that would require photographic evidence of Sanitation tickets. Eichenstein, whose legislation doesn’t currently have a Senate co-sponsor, told Hamodia on Thursday that such legislation “is a no-brainer and the time has come for the State Legislature to pass it. If agents are going to issue a summons, why would they be afraid to provide a photograph of the alleged materials, condition or situation to justify the violation?”

In response to Hamodia’s request for comment on the allegations of fraud and on the proposed bill, a Sanitation Department spokesperson said, “We ask all New Yorkers to do their part – don’t litter, sweep your sidewalk, use a litter basket properly. Our enforcement efforts are our last resort in our efforts to keep New York City healthy, safe, and clean.

“We take any allegations of fraud very seriously and will thoroughly investigate any specific accusations.”

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