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Fallen Leaves: Don't Leave Them in the Street

leafvacuumDid you know that Scarsdale Village code prohibits leaf piles in the street? Why? Because leaf piles can cause a multitude of problems – blocking walkways and fire hydrants, becoming a slippery hazard to pedestrians and drivers, creating visual obstructions and clogging storm drains and catch basins.

That's why village code requires that leaf piles should be placed on the grass, near the edge of the curb –and not in the street.

However, this has proven to be difficult to enforce. Gardeners often blow leaves onto the street, onto neighboring properties, onto traffic islands and into the public right of way. Should the village get tougher about enforcing the rules?

That was the subject of a meeting of the Municipal Services Committee of the Scarsdale Village government on August 8, 2017. Public Works Superintendent Benny Salanitro explained that during leaf season, which runs from mid-October to late December, staff from the Highway Department vacuums leaves, and on average does seven pick-ups per location per season.

If twigs, branches or grass clippings are mixed into the leaf piles, they cannot be vacuumed and may damage the vacuum equipment. As an alternative leaves can be put into biodegradable bags which will be collected by the Village.

The Village currently takes several measures to inform residents and landscapers about proper leaf disposal, mailing a flyer of "Do's and Don'ts" to the 408 contractors that are known to work in Scarsdale. In addition the flyer is posted in the newspaper, on the village website and on cable television. If police notice leaf piles in the streets they too assist with enforcement of the rules.

To those who don't comply, warning notices are distributed to homes where leaves are present in the roadway, usually about 300 per year. However, no legal summons have been issued.

At the meeting the Trustees discussed the possibility of stepping up enforcement. Should the Public Works department create "door knockers" to be placed at homes that abuse the policy – or should legal summons be issued to residents and landscapers who pile leaves in the streets? At the conclusion of the meeting, Trustees agreed to ask Village Staff to recommend ways to step up enforcement and reduce the dangers of leaves being piled in the street.

And what has come of the many discussions of mulching in place, i.e. mowing over fallen leaves and leaving the remains on the lawn? For now that discussion and the move to eliminate leaf vacuuming by the Village seems to be on hold. The Cornell Waste Management Institute is currently doing a study to assess the effect of mulch mowing on the tick populations on lawns. The initial study showed no increased incidence of ticks on mulch-mowed lawns. The NYS Department of Health advises that lawns be kept mowed to create a "tick-free zone around your home."

How can you help? Rake your leaves to the edge of the lawn and ask your gardener to do the same. If not, you may receive an unpleasant notice from the Highway Department!

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