City refunds bilked homeowner for sidewalk repairs

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This Fresh Meadows homeowner was reimbursed over $1,000 after he fought the
city’s decision to replace the entire sidewalk surrounding his corner house.THE COURIER/photo by Melissa Chen
This Fresh Meadows homeowner was reimbursed over $1,000 after he fought the city’s decision to replace the entire sidewalk surrounding his corner house.

A Fresh Meadows homeowner who said he was bilked by the city in 2009 for over $2,000 was reimbursed more than half the cost and was refunded a piece of his pilfered American Dream.

“I feel good that I won. I got into a good fight and I loved it,” said John Biagi, 62.

Biagi said when the city billed him for what he called unnecessary sidewalk repairs, he felt his right as a homeowner was violated.

In 2004, the retired mechanic was warned by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to replace approximately 68-square-feet of sidewalk on his Utopia Parkway property. While he said the slabs were defective from two trees the city recently removed, he said he had every plan to cooperate with the agency, but first requested more information.

He did not hear back from them until 2009 when he said city workers came out of the woodwork, replacing nearly the entire sidewalk surrounding Biagi’s corner home — including close to 800-square-feet of pavement instead of the originally estimated 68.

Total cost the city billed Biagi: $2,240.69.

An infuriated Biagi called 3-1-1, filed three complaints and then contacted City Comptroller John Liu, the DOT, the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and Councilmember Dan Halloran. When he only received help from Halloran after four years of getting the runaround from city agencies, Biagi, out of frustration, reached out to The Courier in March and propped up a white handcrafted billboard sign that read “Another Homeowner Screwed by NYC” in bold, red-painted lettering.

Now, the homeowner has been given back $1,442.62 — a check from the city Biagi was happy to cash. He has also replaced his billboard with a smaller one that reads “Refunded $1,442.62. Thanks for your support.”

The former sign, which garnered much attention, still leans against the home Biagi has lived in for over 20 years, and he plans to let fellow frustrated neighbors borrow it.

“I think it was wrong that I should have been in the fight in the first place, but at least I got justice in the end,” Biagi said.

According to the DDC, the revised estimate was “based on additional sidewalk flags which were observed to be broken or were identified as trip hazards.” The agency said the total bill sent to Biagi only represented 30 percent of the total sidewalk replacement work. The other 70 percent of the construction, officials said, was done to “provide uniformity in grade” and were not charged to Biagi’s account.

But Biagi, who was content with paying the final $800, said the entire sidewalk did not need to be repaired and the unnecessary improvements were ultimately paid for by city taxpayers.

“Thanks to you paying your taxes, I got a new sidewalk that I didn’t need,” Biagi said. “They refunded my stolen money back to me and they think I should be grateful. It’s wrong how they screw everyone in New York City.”

A spokesperson for Liu said the comptroller was “happy to have resolved this matter in a way that is fair and equitable to both him and the city.”