QUEENS — A parking lot near a shuttered store in Forest Hills has turned into a "dumping ground" that neighbors said is full of electronic debris and food waste, but officials warned that cleaning the trash poses a challenge because it's private property.
Garbage started piling up at the parking lot of the now-shuttered Sports Authority, at 73-25 Woodhaven Blvd., on the border of Forest Hills, Rego Park and Glendale, after the store closed at the end of July following the chain's bankruptcy earlier this year, residents said.
“People are using it as a dumping ground,” said Deanna Davis, who lives nearby.
John O'Reilly, who has been documenting the issue on a local Facebook page, said that initially the trash pile was confined to a single patch near the Home Depot parking lot and consisted mostly of construction and electronic debris.
But recently another pile emerged on the other side of the lot, near the back of Trader Joe's on 73rd Avenue.
The trash now also includes food waste and there are pools of standing water under it. O'Reilly, who is concerned that the water provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes, called it "a growing public health issue."
(Photo courtesy of Stephen Melnick)
O'Reilly called 311 to report the trash and water and was told the situation is being addressed, but on Monday morning trash continued to pile up in the lot.
“I see bags of food waste and they are being ripped open by animals,” he said. “It smells and it’s just cooking all day.”
The city received at least two complaints about the illegal dumping near the closed Sports Authority on Aug. 10 and 13, records show, and is "in the process of investigating" the issue.
Frank Gulluscio, district manager at Community Board 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, said that the board has been working on the matter with the Department of Sanitation, but the process takes time because it’s private property and special procedures have to be followed.
“The City of New York cannot just go in there because it’s private property,” Gulluscio said. “It’s a process and it takes time.”
Neither Sports Authority nor California-based Realty Income Corporation, which according to city records is listed as the property owner, immediately returned phone calls seeking comment.
Local residents urged the city to address the situation immediately.
“If the property owner cannot be tracked down or refuses to clean up the mess there today, the city needs to step in and clean it then,” Stephen Melnick, a Forest Hills activist and member of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, said Monday.
The Department of Sanitation said Monday that a letter ordering the property owner to address the problem was issued by the Department of Health a week ago.
"A compliance inspection will be conducted in approximately 1 week," Belinda Mager, a spokeswoman for the Department of Sanitation, said in an email. "If the area has not been addressed by the owner, we will schedule it to be cleaned."
The Department of Sanitation also issued a summons regarding the problem, Mager said.
The Department of Health did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The Forest Hills Sports Authority closed for business by the end of July. (DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska)