Supreme Court NY County: Albert Prince v The City of New York
Q: How much does it cost to garbage pick recyclables in New York City?
A: $2000. And if you attempt to drive away with your stash of trash, your vehicle can be impounded.
What if you are merely an artist who uses “found objects” to express yourself? Surely the law recognizes the artist’s right to troll the streets of metropolis in search of inspiring throw-aways and to remove them by car (artistic license to drive!) to reassemble them in studio with an eye toward lifting the spirits of the common man from the loo to the Louvre. Sadly, there are statutes for such statues, and even starving artists must give ear to the law.
Albert Prince discovered gold in the gutter when he found a rooftop television antenna made of recyclable metal along with a few choice cans curbside. He took them into his car before the Gmen made their appointed rounds. Spotted by a vigilant sanitation officer, he was issued a citation for violating the NYC Administrative Code prohibiting the unauthorized removal or recyclable refuse. His car was impounded and he was fined $2000 (better than spending a night in the can). Believing the application of the Administrative Code to his circumstances was essentially a load of garbage, this challenge to the law followed.
According to Justice Kern, the law as written was not littered with discrepancies but was unambiguous as drafted. Moreover, there was no waste of words to sort through in determining the fine. Only one is provided: $2000, even for removing scraps. As for impounding the car, it cannot be said that such action represents an excessive fine since the purpose was to deter detritus delinquents from driving away with their debris.
As the court concluded, “It is not the role of the courts to rewrite the statute to make exceptions for people taking items in small numbers or for artistic purposes.”
So are we over-regulated or properly protected? Or is this just a bunch of rubbish?
As always, the answer is in the eyes of the beholder.