By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sunset Park residents who generously donate clothing to charity by placing garments in large collection bins that have been placed on the sidewalk at various locations around the community might want to think twice before doing it again, a business group warns.
Leaders of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID) said that many of the bins, which were placed on the sidewalks with no input from the community, do not appear to belong to any charitable organization.
The bins were first spotted two years ago by a local merchant and since then, several more have popped up, according to BID leaders. The BID represents property owners and merchants on Fifth Avenue between 38th and 64th streets.
The bins often become unsightly, according to BID leaders, who said the boxes overflow, with clothing spilling out onto the sidewalk.
The BID routinely reports the unwanted bins to the city’s Department of Sanitation, which inspects to determine if a bin is on city property and if so, which affixes a sticker to the box, giving the owner 30 days to remove it.
That seemed to work for a while, according to BID leaders, who said that the 29th day, a day before the 30-day deadline, the offending boxes would disappear.
Earlier this year, however, the Facebook webpage “Sunset Parker” (a Sunset Park activist and historical photo posting site) started getting numerous reports of charity clothing bins again popping up all over Sunset Park.
“We realized that it was time to do more than just talk about this issue on line. So we activated our civic action component, Sunset Park Restoration,” Sunset Parker spokeswoman Evelyn Reilly said.
Jovita Sosa-Vergara, a Restoration board member, said the problem isn’t just in Sunset Park. “From discussions with other communities, it seemed that these bins were showing up all over the borough. It has been determined that at least one of the companies behind the bins was a for-profit business in Italy that purported to ‘donate’ part of its profit to charity and that they were providing much needed jobs for the poor. But none of this could be proved,” Sosa-Vergara said.
The blog KensingtonBrooklyn reported in March that the so-called charity bins are a problem all over the city. Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) is drafting a bill that would require companies that put out the bins to put their names and phone numbers on the boxes, the blog reported. Under the bill, a company’s information would have to be clearly marked on the bin.
The bin owners are taking advantage of the 30-day wait allowed by the city and continued collecting clothes and shoes during that period and then merely moving the bin to another corner for another 30 days, Sunset Park leaders charged.
“The 30-day period in reality, with the various delays, was actually closer to two months. Some of the boxes didn’t attract any attention, like six located in the parking lot of Home Depot on Hamilton Avenue, and therefore never got ticketed,” Reilly said.
Sunset Park BID Executive Director Renee Giordano said she thinks it’s sad that hundreds of thousands of dollars of clothing and shoes that residents thought they were donating to the poor might not be going to needy families after all.
“Sunset Park Restoration and the Sunset Park BID have called upon the City Council to pass a law that would require an immediate removal of any object left in a public place without permission,” Sosa-Vergara said.
In addition, residents voiced concern over the potential for bed bugs being spread as homeless people pick through these bins and removed clothes on the street.
Some residents have even taken the law into their own hands and have been affixing their own stickers on the bins claiming that the boxes are not from a charity.
Sunset Park Restoration is urging the City Council to consider the bins a serious public safety issue and craft legislation that would allow them to be removed more easily.