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Post-Sandy, Long Beach restricts use of storage containers on city streets

A POD storage container sits on Wyoming Avenue

A POD storage container sits on Wyoming Avenue in Long Beach on Monday, July 7, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Daniel Rader

Nearly 20 months after superstorm Sandy, Long Beach is limiting storage containers on city streets.

The large steel boxes, most commonly called "pods" in reference to a popular brand name of containers, have been a staple throughout Long Island as residents have been rebuilding their homes and storing personal belongings since the storm.

City officials said they have taken a liberal attitude to the pods, and the number of storage containers and trash bins has spiked in neighborhoods such as the canals area on the eastern end of the city or on the western end of the barrier island in areas hit hard by the storm.

Under new regulations, which were approved during a July 1 City Council meeting, residents must obtain permits for new storage containers or trash bins, which will no longer be allowed on streets for longer than six months.

City Council members said extensions will be granted for hardships with a waiver application to the city.

Permits and the six-month limit will only apply to future containers, not existing containers in neighborhoods. Issues related to those containers will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The new restrictions will not apply to containers on private property or in driveways, officials said.

A provision of the new regulations restricts the use of trash bins on weekends, but the city is waiving that restriction for residents rebuilding homes from the storm.

"We don't want to be a hindrance and prevent someone from rebuilding by forcing them to stop working," Building Commissioner Scott Kemins said.

The building department expects the number of containers could proliferate as rebuilding continues.

"This ordinance is in no way to be against residents," Kemins said during the July 1 City Council meeting. "We're just looking to gain some control of pods in the street. There are houses fully repaired, but residents are using pods for storage."

The city removed two containers on the city's main road, Park Avenue that residents were using for storage after they had moved in. The containers blocked views for residents backing out of driveways and children riding bicycles, Kemins said.

The main goal of the ordinance is to keep records of who owns the containers in order to address storage and public safety issues. The city has no way of tracking existing pods.

Some neighbors have complained that the containers are an eyesore and block city streets or take up scarce parking spaces. Still, neighbors know the long road back for those rebuilding their homes after Sandy.

Robin Schumacher of Long Beach had a container in her driveway for about a year. Her family had to rent an apartment while her home in the canals neighborhood was rebuilt. Less than a dozen containers remain in the canals neighborhood.

"It can't be helped," Schumacher said. "Everyone went with the flow while people were rebuilding their lives."

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