Friday, October 24, 2014

After Careful Study, WRBA Gives Sanitation Dept. a Failing Grade on Illegal Signs

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association issued a detailed, data-driven report on Sanitation's performance regarding illegal signs—the culmination of four years of work by the WRBA.  The report's findings reflect disappointing performance by the city agency.

Woodhaven residents have become accustomed to illegal postings—signs and stickers that offer to buy houses, junk cars, and a variety of other commercial transactions.  These postings are affixed to lampposts, utility poles, and other public property.  Residents may call 311 to report these signs.  The Sanitation Department is then responsible for removing them and prosecuting whomever posted them.

"Illegal signs are an eyesore that disadvantage law-abiding businesses, distract drivers and pedestrians, signal that the rule of law is being ignored, and are sometimes used by scammers," said WRBA Director of Communications Alexander Blenkinsopp.  "Our study shows that when Sanitation says an illegal posting has been addressed, there's a better than 50% chance it's not true.  That performance deserves a failing grade."

The WRBA's report provides rigorous evidence that the current approach to illegal postings is not working, that 311 has become an ineffective tool for reporting illicit signs, and that the Sanitation Department and elected officials must dramatically rethink their approach to this problem.

Based on 164 service requests the WRBA filed with 311, reporting a total of 142 illegal postings, we learned the following:

  • Over 63% of our 311 requests were not addressed properly.
  • Of the postings Sanitation claimed to have addressed, 47% of them were actually not removed at all.  An additional 7% were only partly removed (meaning a significant portion of the sign or sticker remained).
  • This year, nearly 28% of our 311 requests regarding illegal postings appear never to have reached Sanitation at all.
  • Sanitation personnel often take shortcuts instead of thoroughly removing signs and stickers.

The full report is available here.

The WRBA report points out that previous proposals to deal with the illegal sign problem are unlikely to succeed.  Instead of simply pointing out problems, though, the WRBA advances six possible solutions, any one of which would likely improve Sanitation's performance.  One of those solutions is a renewal of a proposal the WRBA made three years ago: empowering residents by letting them get involved in the process of removing signs.

"The WRBA is a volunteer organization, but this report is as professional and comprehensive as any that the city could have commissioned at great taxpayer expense," said Block Association President Martin Colberg.  "When it comes to illegal signs, the Sanitation Department should stop ignoring and blocking involvement by residents who have no agenda other than caring for our community and bringing about positive change."

The report notes how pervasive the problem has become citywide, and how illicit postings also hurt legitimate forums for advertising, like local newspapers.  The WRBA welcomes the opportunity to work with any organizations or elected officials anywhere in the city to build support for real solutions to the ongoing issue of illegal signs.

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WRBA office: (718) 296-3735