A sidewalk citation mess

Seven On Your Side
September 28, 2009 8:32:45 PM PDT
A homeowner from Brooklyn thought he was making his neighborhood safe for pedestrians. But when he reported his neighbor for an uneven sidewalk, he wound up getting numerous violations of his own. That's when he called for Seven on his Side to smooth things out.

It's a seemingly normal-looking sidewalk.

"I have no idea what they are looking at," Abby Weissman said.

Weissman was talking about violations he got for his sidewalk. It all started a couple of months ago when Abby called the city complaining about his neighbor's buckled and crumbling sidewalk.

"I had fallen on their sidewalk twice," he said.

But when city inspectors came out, Abby was issued violations for five of his seven flags, or sidwalk squares. He was told they needed to be replaced.

"There's nothing really wrong with my sidewalk," he said.

But the DOT disagreed. In New York, as in many cities, homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of sidewalks in front of their property. Abby was cited for a "trip hazard."

Tappy: "So they are telling you these two flags are a trip hazard." Abby: "Yes."
Tappy: "And the standard for a trip hazard is more than a half-inch difference."
(Tappy measures)
Tappy: "There are not even anywhere close to a half inch."
Abby: "No."

When Eyewitness News contacted DOT, they said the trip hazard was not between the flags. Part of Abby's sidewalk is a more than half inch higher than the curb, which is already three inches higher than the street. Abby couldn't believe it.

"That to me is absurd," he said.

Abby was also cited for cementing hairline cracks. He estimates replacing five flags would cost close to $1,400. And if he doesn't, the city can do it themselves and charge him.

"Every time I hear a jackhammer, or whatever, I'm nervous that someone showed up and is ripping apart my sidewalk for nothing," he said.

So how do DOT's sidewalks compare? Tappy went to three DOT locations to find out. There, she found numerous trip risks greater than the half-inch the regulations cite. The worst was a sidewalk on Court Street with numerous pock marks and cracks deeper than an inch. The DOT said that they don't own any of those properties and that some have outstanding violations.

As for Abby's violations, DOT said: "Keeping the city's sidewalks safe and free of hazards is a principle of safety for everyone. Property owners must take sidewalk defects seriously and repair them."

They said Abby's neighbor was also cited, but Abby feels like being a Good Samaritan backfired on him.

"It's like some sort of Kafka-esque nightmare where I had, I don't know who my accusers are and I don't know how I get out of it," he said.

Abby finally called the Parks Department, since the roots from the city-owned tree in front of his house may have caused the cracks.

This means Abby has one more recourse. If the tree did cause the cracks, he can file a claim against the city to reimburse him for at least some of the cost of his sidewalk repair.

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