One local lawmaker says that New Yorkers trying to donate old items of clothing in some of the large drop-off boxes around the city should think twice, as they could be helping someone pocket some cash. NY1's Arlene Borenstein filed the following report.
Skylar Ng, a 19-year old college student, says she put her old clothes in a bag and brought them to a donation box on 80th Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
"The idea is, I'm not using it, then somebody else can use it, and it'll benefit them more," she said.
Benefit whom? City Councilman Daniel Dromm of Queens says that much of the time, it's not someone in need.
"We don't know exactly where it's going," he said. "Often times, it winds up to somebody who cleans the clothing and then re-sells it as a profit, and then puts the profit into their pocket."
It turns out that some, if not most, and possibly all of what goes into many of these boxes winds up being sold for cash by the people who put them on the streets.
NY1 called the number on the side of one of the boxes. The woman who answered told NY1 that items in good condition are donated, while others are sold to recyclers for profit. But there's no guarantee that any of it will go to those who need it.
"People are assuming that it's for a charity. It is not necessarily so," Dromm said.
Boxes placed on public sidewalks are illegal, and the Department of Sanitation says it takes them down if they're left there for more than 30 days.
There are no other penalties or fines, though, so the owners can remove them and just put them back up somewhere else.
Boxes can go up on private property with written consent from the property owners, who Dromm says sometimes profit as well.
"People are participating in this knowing that it really is an illegal activity," he said.
Dromm has already gotten rid of three of the boxes throughout Queens, but he says it's not just a borough-wide issue, as others have been spotted citywide.
NY1's crew found six illegal donation boxes on Brooklyn sidewalks. The Department of Sanitation says that they are working to get rid of them, too.