Overstuffed trash bins stink up NoLibs complex

Posted: July 08, 2014

THE RESIDENTS and neighbors of one Northern Liberties apartment complex have spent two years seeking refuge from refuse.

They say the trash bins in the parking lot of Liberties Walk at Schmidt's - the little sister to the Piazza, on the opposite side of 2nd Street near George - are constantly overflowing with waste, including food scraps from the restaurants housed in the complex's first floor.

The excess rubbish attracts rats, blows onto the street and into neighboring properties, and literally causes a stink, especially during the warmer months, according to Matt Ruben, president of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association.

Streets Department records show that Westminster Management, which operates Liberties Walk, has been given 15 violations for the bulging bins in the last eight months.

The fines from those citations have been paid, except for two issued last month, according to Paula Weiss, executive director of the city's Office of Administrative Review.

But the barrage of fines hasn't done the trick, to hear community members tell it.

"This has been a piss-poor job of management on [Westminster's] part," said Ruben. "They haven't done anything to resolve this after numerous complaints. It's appalling."

Ruben said he has sent multiple emails to Westminster about the issue, some including photos of the incriminating garbage, to no avail.

Part of the problem, he says, is a high rate of turnover in personnel at Westminster: Ruben has dealt with at least four property managers in the two years since Westminster bought the complex from Tower Investments, the firm that built it.

Mike Davies, the current property manager, has been on the job for less than a month. He said last week - about the same time the Daily News began inquiring about the trash issue - that he was trying to "light a fire" under Republic Services, the sanitation firm that Liberties Walk uses.

"The last thing we want to do is to pay any extra money in fines," Davies said. "Our goal is to make sure the vendor is giving us the services that we're paying for."

Part of the issue, Davies said, is that the trash bins are located in a public space. The building's zoning plan includes an easement for a separate room designed to hold the bins, but they had to be moved into the building's parking lot after the sanitation trucks had difficulty maneuvering around tenants' cars to access the room.

That's left the bins wide open for any passers-by looking to toss their trash, filling them faster than anticipated. Only the tenants, both residential and commercial, of Liberties Walk are allowed to use the bins, Davies said.

In the long run, Westminster hopes to install security cameras to help discourage uninvited dumpers.

Meanwhile, Davies is seeking to increase the frequency of trash pickups and is considering upgrading to larger bins.

That's all Lara Kelly wants.

Kelly, a member of the Neighbors' Association, lives two blocks from Liberties Walk and has fielded numerous complaints from her neighbors, including tenants inside the complex.

"I don't know why this is so complicated: The dumpsters just need to be emptied more," she said. "No one wants to live surrounded by overflowing dumpsters, and they shouldn't have to."


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