New York City officials have had myriad problems in recent years with the Springfield Gardens Apartments complex.
But the only thing residents who live near the complex wanted to talk about at a meeting of the Springfield Taxpayers Association on Tuesday night was garbage on the site, and how it can be eliminated.
The complex is bordered by 140th and 141st avenues to the north and south, and by 183rd and 184th streets to the west and east.
“It used to be a beautiful place,” Jacqueline Kellum-Foster, secretary of the association, said.
But in recent years, a former owner was sentenced to prison in a massive mortgage fraud case, and some residents, along with outside dumpers, have come to regard the complex’s property as a waste disposal site.
“We don’t even have a site manager or a superintendent,” claimed a woman who said she lives in the complex.
City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and Bruno Iciano of the Department of Sanitation told the audience of about 50 people at the Salem Missionary Baptist Church that they would love to just fine the owners until the garbage situation became a financial disincentive.
“But right now, there is no clear owner,” Iciano said. “With some illegal dumping by individuals, we used to be able to go through, find a piece of mail and identify them that way.”
But he said people in recent years — particularly those interested in the illegal dumping of refuse —have stopped throwing their mail away in regular trash.
Iciano said the DOS has had two outreach programs at the complex, which included fliers explaining the city’s regulations, and that he was willing to arrange another.
Richards said he is dedicating discretionary money from City Council coffers to the Doe Fund, a charitable organization, which will result in the assignment of volunteers to do a community cleanup in the area in the near future.
“Fine them,” Springfield Gardens resident Deborah Ferguson said. “That is the only thing that will work.”
Iciano said the DOS is limited by statute to what it can and cannot respond to. A property with tall weeds, for example, cannot be cleaned up by the department unless there is also an existing trash problem.
“With a vacant lot, when we get an order from the Department of Health, we can go in, do a cleanup and submit the bill to the property owner,” he said, adding that a building is a lot more difficult to get permission to enter.
He also was sympathetic to those who feel rules should be changed and fines increased.
“Those are set by the City Council,” he said, referring such inquiries to Richards.
Association President Patrick Evans, like many of the residents, said while a cleanup that Richards could arrange would be a nice temporary solution, it would not address the long-term issue, and might only serve to enable persistent trash violators.
“And if they haven’t stopped with two or three outreach programs, they won’t stop after four,” he said.
Iciano and Richards said calling 311 or calling Richards’ office with information such as the identities and addresses of people they see dump on the site can help DOS act.
Iciano said license plates, vehicle descriptions and times of day can help their investigators with the issuance of summonses.
Jamaica resident Joe Moretti, who has been documenting incidences of careless and illegal dumping in Southeast Queens for more than two years, dropped by the meeting to lend moral support.
And he said he has not always gotten results by following the 311 route.
“I have given you the names of dumpers and property owners for several sites where nothing has happened,” Moretti said.
Several residents attending the meeting also said identifying at least some individuals from the Springfield Gardens Apartments has been easy enough for neighbors while DOS investigators have been unable to do so.
“I put out my garbage and sometimes people put their stuff in my can,” Kellum-Foster said. “One time somebody put something in and I got a summons. I paid my fine. So people who live across the street from the apartments get fines and the people who live at the Springfield Gardens don’t,” she said.