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Three longtime neighbors in Bushwick, Brooklyn contacted What a Shame to complain about New York City’s Sidewalk Repair Program

“We’ve been in this community for over 50 years and never seen anything like this,” Dalton Bolden said.

The problem started in July of 2018 when a Department of Transportation (DOT) sidewalk inspector visited the homes of Emerita Brandon and Bolden on Bushwick Avenue. The residents said they were not notified of the inspection and were unaware the inspector was on their property, examining the sidewalk in front of their homes.

Following the inspection, the DOT sent a Notice of Violation to Bolden, citing four violations, including broken squares, a trip hazard and an uneven slope.  He was informed he had 75 days in which to fix those violations himself or the city would send a contractor to make the repairs and bill him. 

“There is no trip hazard, no break, like the city is alleging,” Bolden said.

He shared pictures of what appear to be normal looking sidewalks. He called 311 and asked for a re-inspection. That was done, though again he was not notified and not present when it occurred. The re-inspection found even more of his sidewalk needed replacement.

The DOT also sent a Notice of Violations to his neighbor, Emerita Brandon. The inspector found nine of the sidewalk squares in front of her home had to be replaced.

Brandon insists she never received the notice.  She said if she had, “I would have had my contractor do any work that was necessary, which apparently and obviously was not necessary”.

For more than two years, there was no more communication from the DOT regarding the need for the repairs. Then, on Nov. 7, 2019, the NYC Department of Design and Construction (NYCDDC) posted a Community Advisory on their doors informing them that in two weeks the city would send contractors to begin repairing their sidewalks.

On the Advisory was the name and cell number of a Community Construction Liaison, Youseph Rasheed,  “if you have questions, concerns, or would like to learn more about the DDC Project.”

Bolden said he called four times and left messages requesting the liaison come show him the alleged violations.

“To this day, I have never heard from Mr. Rasheed,” Bolden said.

Brandon said the advisory was the first time she learned of her violations.  It was too late to stop the process.

When the repair crew arrived to begin the work, Bolden says the contractor told him “I don’t really see the damage to the sidewalk.”

Nevertheless, the work indicated as necessary on the inspector’s report was done. Brandon said the repairs left part of her sidewalk in worse shape than before because of wide and potentially dangerous gaps between squares.

Another year passed before the homeowners learned how much those repairs would cost them.

On their property tax bills, sent Nov. 21, 2020, was a “Design/Construction-Sidewalk -Chg.” On Bolden’s bill, that charge was just over $2,200.  Brandon’s charge was $3,121. 

“That’s extremely too much money” said Brandon, who showed the bill to the private contractor who had repaired her porch.

“He said, ‘for this kind of work Ms. Brandon, I would charge you $500-$600,'” Brandan told PIX11. “But, he said, ‘what was wrong with the sidewalk?’”

The homeowners said they had to pay or risk having a lien put on their homes. They said the city is taking advantage of small homeowners.

“Since big businesses are not paying any property taxes, they are trying to squeeze people who are just trying to make ends meet,” Brandon said. “Get your money some other way.”

A DOT spokesperson said “Issuing sidewalk violations is not a means to collect revenue, but rather a way for the DOT to make certain that all New Yorkers are able to travel safely and comfortably on sidewalks throughout the city.”

But if safe sidewalks throughout the city is the goal, ichard Rodriguez, a third neighbor on Bushwick Avenue, asked why the city has done nothing to repair the truly dangerous conditions of the sidewalk in front of his home.

“We’ll just have to wait for someone to fall and break their face,” Rodriguez, who lives next door to Bolden, said.

He first complained about the buckling, cracked, badly damaged sidewalk three years ago.

At the time, the DOT sent an inspector who marked the areas needing repair. 

“To add insult to injury, three weeks later they gave me a violation,” Rodriguez said. “I said ‘guys, I called you to fix this.’”

That violation was eventually dismissed because the sidewalk damage is caused by the spreading root system of a city-owned tree in front of his home. The city is legally responsible to make those repairs and pay for them, ut it is taking years to get it done.

“If you go all over Bushwick you’ll see the same conditions. Sidewalks cracked by uprooted trees but the city does nothing about it because it’s their responsibility,” Brandon said.

The NYC Parks Department has a “priority repair” list of 3,400 sites of buckling sidewalks caused by city trees. To make matters worse, the budget for the repairs has been cut and the department says it will be at least two more years before it can get them all.  And what about the additional “priority repair” sites that will be reported during that time?

“They are probably trying to wear me down until I get frustrated and I make the repairs myself,” Rodriguez said.

And get this: the roots that have destroyed his sidewalk are now spreading underneathBolden’s property, causing damage to the sidewalk he just had to pay the city to repair!

What a Shame! The city is forcing homeowners to spend thousands of dollars on questionable repairs, while it waits years to address truly hazardous sidewalk conditions it is obligated to fix.

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