At a dead end in Whitestone, a colorful garden encircled by stone extends from the fence of a mustard-colored stucco home and into the middle of a city street.
The property owner of the house, located at 148-12 on 2nd Avenue, was issued a summons by the Department of Transportation (DOT) on April 1, 2010, that found the projections, including the garden and the fence, impinge on city property.
The department ordered homeowner Rocco Sacco to remove the structures. After failing to comply, he was issued three more summonses over a period of several months. But, the matter dates back much further.
After renovation on the home began, the Department of Buildings (DOB) Buildings Information System database describes a complaint received on August 4, 2005, about construction that spilled onto the street.
The complaint was forwarded to the DOT, which has jurisdiction over city streets.
After the construction was complete, a survey conducted on January 6, 2006 by Big Apple Land Surveyors showed a curious new feature in front of the property, on what is also known as Powells Cove Boulevard: the planter that sticks out 12 feet from Sacco’s property line.
The fencing that was originally within the bounds of the property as indicated in the pavement plan, now was mapped outside of it.
The builder’s pavement plan filed for the site on April 16, 2004 does not indicate a garden and shows the fencing as being within the bounds of Sacco’s property.
Ryan Fitzgibbon, a DOB spokesperson, noted that the department has no jurisdiction over what occurs on the street, including the creation of planter and the fence. Fitzgibbon added that the surveys are conducted to ensure that construction was completed as approved by the pavement plan.
The survey also erroneously notes that the avenue is only 60 feet wide. The street is, in fact, 80 feet wide, as noted in the original pavement plan approved by the DOB and as confirmed by the Queens Borough President’s office.
At the Environmental Control Board (ECB) hearing held on May 4, 2011, a DOT representative affirmed the charges against Sacco comprised of four violations for “encroaching on city property” by building a fence on the sidewalk and a garden in the street.
However, Sacco’s representative, Carl Sulfaro, contested the violations, saying that Sacco did not plant the garden, does not have jurisdiction over it and does not own it, according to the ECB hearing document.
After the DOT representative presented photos and a property information sheet of the site, Administrative Law Judge Loriann Hellmann found that the DOT did not meet its burden to show that the encroachments were either on city property or out of the bounds of Sacco’s property. She also found that the DOT failed to show that Sacco actually planted the garden on the street.
Hellmann dismissed all four violations. The DOT now has 30 days to appeal this ruling.
Councilmember Dan Halloran declined to comment on the issue, only noting that he has been in contact with the constituents involved in this matter.
After repeated attempts, the owner of the property could not be reached for comment.