UPPER EAST SIDE — The trash situation along Second Avenue is a mess — and no one seems sure of how to clean it up, according to local residents and community leaders.
Barricades for MTA construction along Second Avenue for the future subway line have blocked garbage trucks from getting access to the curb on the east side of the street from East 80th to 101st streets. As a result, residents and businesses scramble to find space to put their garbage for pickup, heaping bags into piles that residents say stink up sidewalks and attract rodents.
“It’s a mess,” said Rita Popper, of the Knickerbocker Plaza Tenants Association. “Everybody — if they don’t live here — just leaves at the end of the day, and we’re left with the rats and the trash.”
According to those on the street, the problem is a combination of not-frequent-enough Sanitation Department pickups for residential garbage, and too much time between when businesses put out their garbage and when it's picked up by private carters.
Businesses are supposed to hold on to their garbage until two hours before a scheduled daytime collection and one hour before closing time for nighttime pickup.
But with much less space to store all the garbage, businesses are putting their trash out too soon, taking over scant sidewalk space, locals said.
“People complained that their trash was sitting out for hours, but they close at 6 o’clock at night,” said Danny Marquez, the manager of Nick’s Pizza on Second Avenue and 94th Street, “What else can they do? Hire someone to come [into the store] late at night and take out 30 bags of garbage?”
Department of Sanitation spokeswoman Belinda Mager said the agency has reached out to both residential and commercial tenants in the past to clarify the temporary removal system.
“We continue to monitor the area and take necessary steps to help keep the area clean,” Mager said in an email.
The MTA, which is responsible for the Second Avenue construction project, said it's also done its part to clear the mess.
“We expanded alcoves where garbage is placed for pickup and increased the number of bait stations,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said in an email. “We’ve also had the contractors assign laborers to clean alcoves daily and sanitize weekly.”
In the meantime, some business owners say they're being slammed with fines for garbage pileups that aren't even from their stores.
Joe Pecora, owner of Delizia 92, a pizza joint on the corner of Second Avenue and 92nd Street, said he’s paid about $1,000 in fines since Second Avenue construction began in 2007.
“On my corner here, I get trash put out from the apartment building next door, which has 150 units, and from all the businesses over here,” he said. “If there's a problem with recycling or something, I get penalized. I get the tickets because Sanitation just assumes the trash is mine.”
Pecora, who said he recently paid $300 in sanitation fines, added that increasing the number of violations will damage many businesses already struggling with the dwindling number of customers on the construction-scarred avenue.
“To have to put up with this construction and piles of garbage and fines on top of it, that would hurt business even more,” he said.
State Assemblyman Dan Quart, who has been working with the community to try to clean up the mess, recently sponsored legislation that would give Department of Sanitation officers more authority to issue tickets to businesses that break the rules.
“We have to do something to help constituents who are not only living with construction, but are now dealing with piles of garbage,” Quart said. “I don’t think they can curb this problem if they only issue violations when they witness them.”
The Department of Sanitation declined to comment on Quart’s proposal.
Quart said his goal isn't to heap more headaches on businesses but rather to punish the rogue businesses that are causing problems for the rest of their neighbors.
"The goal is for the Department of Sanitation to issue violations for offending behaviors," he said. "If businesses are getting violations for things they didn't do, all they need to do is call my office and we'll help them."