Bellerose homeowner Caroline Vereline said that in the 54 years she has lived in her home, she has never seen the city Department of Transportation repair the curbs on her street.
“These curbs were built 62 years ago when the houses were built. I complained and they told me they’re 22 years ?behind schedule,” said the 76-year old Vereline. “I won’t be around in 22 years! It’s disgusting that in this city we can’t get our curbs done.”
Vereline and other frustrated homeowners joined state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who said the backlog is 23 years, Friday on 242nd Street, where the curbs have deteriorated and in some places are completely missing, to call on the city to finally do something about it.
“The fact is the city is disenfranchising homeowners from getting their curbs fixed,” Avella said. “When they call up to report a broken curb, they’re threatened with a sidewalk violation even for the most minor crack — and I’ve seen examples of that.”
While the DOT is responsible for maintaining curbs, property owners are accountable for keeping sidewalks in good condition. Avella claimed the DOT sent him a letter when he was in the City Council in which the department admitted that when a homeowner calls to report a broken curb, the DOT automatically inspects the sidewalk.
The senator called this practice “extortion,” but could not produce the letter.
None of the homeowners gathered around Avella Friday said they felt they had been retaliated against for reporting damaged curbs, but Vereline said the poor conditions in front of her home lead to flooding in her yard.
A DOT spokesman would not confirm the length of the department’s backlog, but did release the following statement: “Through our active program, DOT allocates $20 million annually to make repairs to sidewalks and curbs. While requests to address curb conditions outpace available resources, DOT’s contractor works to make curb repairs as efficiently as it can by rotating through community boards citywide. The agency will look to address this location when the contractor is next in the area.”
One of the neighbors, Richard Cornwall, said that while he did not experience flooding due to broken curbs, they did make it difficult when parking his car. “When I go to park, I can’t feel it. Some people claim water comes up in their yard. I find it difficult to believe,” he said.
Avella went further to criticize DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan for funneling department funds to “pet projects” such as bike lanes at the expense of keeping up its existing infrastructure.
“They’re just not putting the money in the budget. It’s not sexy. The only people who know about it is individual homeowners,” he said. “This has gone on for years. Now is the first time the city told us there’s a backlog of 23 ?years.”