by Laura Matiz
When showing apartments in the city, there are three things that sours a buyer's perception of a building and its vicinity, scaffolding, a garbage bag mound, and sidewalks full of dog dirt. I can usually convince people about the temporary nature of the first two, although some scaffolding seems to grow permanent status in front of buildings. Dog poop is another story, especially if on a second visit, the situation is the same.
Long-time NYC residents may recall 1978 when the pooper-scooper laws were enacted during the Ed Koch administration. Before that, the city sidewalks were a minefield. It was disgusting. Opponents of the law felt that picking up after your dog was also disgusting. So did the Department of Sanitation, who initially refused to pick up dog waste from public receptacles. At first, dog owners were instructed to bring home the droppings for disposal in their toilets. See FlushPuppies.
We have come a long way since the late 70s. Most dog-owners carry little baggies and willingly pick up after their pets. The City has a website with information on the law and a form where citizens can leave a complaint for dog waste. One presumes the complaint information will be used to canvas the affected area by one of the small number of Department of Sanitation employees who enforce the law. I have never seen one of these employees, so they may be as rare as Big Foot. I found some older articles that claim that much fewer than 1,000 summons are given out yearly in the five boroughs. That may be because scofflaws must be caught in the act of not acting. An amNY.com story tallied and mapped the number of complaints the city received for animal waste for the year ending July 2014. Manhattan had 220 of the total 2,442 complaints received.
Sidewalk cleanliness in residential areas is also probably a measure of the invisible socioeconomic boundaries that exist in the city. Most doormen buildings have sufficient staff to keep the front of their building clean. From anecdotal observations, most owners never let their pooches go in front of their own building. That would be uncouth. Also, residents of buildings on the avenues tend seek the quieter side streets to allow Fido to do his business and to hide from their neighbors during the act of bending down and picking up. Of course, there is always the park, but you have to pick up there too, or a Park Ranger will want to have a chat with you.