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Restaurants That Dump Leaky Garbage Bags Should Be Fined, Councilwoman Says

By Irene Plagianos on June 11, 2014 6:55am 

 Stacked bags of garbage ooze onto a sidewalk in Chinatown.
Stacked bags of garbage ooze onto a sidewalk in Chinatown.
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DNAinfo/Irene Plagianos

LOWER MANHATTAN  — Clean up your leaky garbage — or pay up.

That’s the message City Councilwoman Margaret Chin is sending to restaurants with a new bill that would fine them if their trash is found oozing oil or other liquids onto the street.

“If you walk around a lot of neighborhoods, places like Chinatown, you can see this grease buildup on the sidewalk,” said Chin, whose district includes Chinatown as well as TriBeCa and the Financial District.

“It’s simple — restaurants need to clean up the leaks. They need to keep the sidewalks clean.”

Chin hopes the legislation, set to be introduced to the City Council on Wednesday, will help curb the rat infestations that plague many parts of the city, she said. 

“I get so many complaints from constituents about the issue of rats, and the Department of Health agrees that the leaks of grease and other food-related liquids from garbage just keeps attracting the rats,” Chin said, adding the DOH supports the bill.

“Restaurants can be doing more to stop rat infestation and keeping the grease off the sidewalks can help.”

Earlier this year, Health Department officials said areas of TriBeCa had “severe rat infestations” and local restaurants, though not the main cause of the problem, become food sources for rodents with their garbage.

The DOH did not respond to a request for comment about Chin’s legislation.

According to Chin’s bill, any restaurant caught with illegally leaky garbage would face a fine. The first offense would cost between $100 to $500, the second offense would be $500 to $600 and third or subsequent violations could rack up $700 to $900 fines.

The Department of Sanitation would be in charge of enforcing the new rule, Chin said.

The Sanitation Department did not return requests for comment.

The bill only targets food and drink establishments and would not additionally penalize other types of businesses or residential buildings. Chin's office said they're focusing on restaurants because they are the biggest offenders when it comes to the food grease and leaks that attract rats.

Several city restaurant associations criticized the bill, saying the city already issues fines for garbage left on sidewalks.

“The answer to every problem is not to create a new law with a new fine," said James Versocki, legal counsel for the city chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, in a emailed statement.

"Commercial waste is already highly regulated and another law likely will do little but hurt the bottom line for small businesses. A better solution would be to have a discussion and training with restaurants about best practices in the industry."

Marcin Glowacki, a manager for TriBeCa restaurant Sweet Green, agreed.

"Rats here are certainly a problem — I see them every night, so we double bag our garbage, make sure it's in the closed metal bins," said Glowacki, who's 413 Greenwich St. eatery is in what officials have called a hotbed of rat activity.

"I think it's good someone wants to target the rat problem, but they should teach people how to best take care of the garbage, maybe give them new bins, new bags, to prevent rats — more fines aren't the answer."

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