Braunstein announced legislation he will introduce that would ban clothing bins that are not operated by 501(c)(3) organizations recognized by the IRS.
Illegal clothing bins have recently become a hot button issue around the city, with for-profit organizations putting out bins on public property to collect donated clothing and shoes.
“These clothing bins are being placed by for-profit entities that many in the public are misled to believe are charitable organizations donating this clothing to needy people,” Braunstein said, standing in front of a pink box outside of Lawrence Cemetery in Bayside marked “Clothes Shoes Drop” and “Our Neighborhood Recycling” with a phone number.
No one answers if the number is called, however, and an investigation by Braunstein and his staff found that the organization that owns the bin is a limited liability corporation (LLC) whose business model revolves around placing the bins on public property.
Besides the ethical issues, Braunstein noted that the bins are “a crucial quality of life issue.”
“These bins attract graffiti, they attract litter,” he said. “We’re here in front of the Lawrence Cemetery, which is a cemetery from the 1600s where the earliest settlers of Bayside are buried, and it’s just appalling that this pink box has been put in front of this sacred community site.”
His legislation would not only require that clothing bins must be managed by registered nonprofit organizations, but also would allow for the immediate removal of clothing bins on public property and would impose monetary penalties on the bin owners.
Currently, Braunstein said, the city must give a 30-day notice before a bin can be removed from public property. A sticker is placed on the drop box and can only be taken care of after the allotted wait period.
He explained that what the illegal bin owners will do is wait 29 days, remove the sticker and then move the bin around the corner, effectively restarting the 30-day removal period.
In this way, these companies get away with having bins out on the streets for as long as they please.
With the new legislation, the city would be allowed to remove the bins right away.
Clothing bins run by nonprofit organizations will also be allowed on private property, given that there is written consent from the property owner.
In the case of illegally placed bins on public property and on private property, both for profit and nonprofit organizations, there will be a $250 fine for the first offense and $500 for each additional offense within the calendar year.
Michael Lambert, executive director of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Gateway Business Improvement District (BID) and co-chair of the New York City BID Association, said that the issue has become serious enough to warrant extensive attention from all of the city’s BIDs.
“[The NYC BID Association] formulated a working group because the issue became that serious around the city,” Lambert said. “We’re hearing about this from all five boroughs as being a problem.”
The goal of the working group is to collaborate with the mayor and City Council to address the issue of illegal clothing bins.
Josef Szende is the chair of the working group, as well as the executive director of the Atlantic Avenue BID, and feels strongly that this is an issue that deserves immediate attention.
“This is a terrible issue that we really need to see addressed,” Szende said. “No resident should have to deal with this, no business should have to deal with this, no neighborhood should have to deal with this.”
Community members of Bayside, where Braunstein announced the legislation, wholeheartedly agreed. Andy Rothman, a member of Community Board 11, called the bin outside of Lawrence Cemetery “a terrible thing.”
“This box is nothing more than a scheme,” Rothman said. “There are good, well-intentioned people who come out and want to help other people who need help, and instead it’s a scheme for some crooked people to make money.”