Whitestone couple faces walkway woes


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Judith Smith, 68, said the city pinned her for sidewalk violations on two slabs that lie outside her property line.

An infuriated Whitestone couple has a bone to pick with the city after they were pinned for violations on 70 square feet of sidewalk outside their property line.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) told Judith and Everett Smith this June to fix two broken and improperly sloped concrete slabs of sidewalk, according to a notice of violation issued by the agency. But the furious pair said the defective squares are not their legal responsibility — pointing to their deed as proof — and instead are connected to an adjacent community driveway, jointly owned by the 22 homeowners on the street.

The 14-foot driveway — or “right of way,” as described in the couple’s mortgage — leads up to a parking area filled with 22 separate garages and belongs to each of the homeowners along 147-23 Willets Point Boulevard.

But since the Smiths’ home is planted directly next to the easement — located in the middle of the residential street — the charge for repairs and role of the lot’s sole caretaker involuntarily came barreling down on the embattled landowners.

“I feel dejected,” said Judith, 68. “We shouldn’t be held accountable for fixing it.”

The Smiths, Whitestone residents for 30 years, had recently made repairs to two other defective sidewalk slabs outside their home, shelling out close to $600 to do so, they said. But costs to maintain the two slabs connected to the driveway, they said, should be split between the 22 homeowners who share the garage area.

“Every house should be forced to pay for it,” said Everett, 71. “It’s disappointing. I wouldn’t live in the city if I had to do it all over. They’re chasing people out. Why should I pay for everybody here and they get the benefit?”

The total cost of repairs was unknown as of press time, but according to the DOT’s guideline prices, the Smiths, who rely on retirement income, could find themselves out of pocket close to another $700.

A spokesperson for the DOT said the owners of the two properties adjacent to the driveway entrance are responsible for making the sidewalk corrections.

“This responsibility remains regardless of any separate arrangement the property owners may have made with other parties for use of the parking area,” the spokesperson said.

The homeowner living on the other side of the driveway declined to comment when approached by The Courier. But neighbor John Holmes, who lives in one of the 22 houses along the easement, said he would not mind relieving some of the Smiths’ burden.

“It seems to make sense for all of us to foot the money. It’s a common driveway,” Holmes said. “The city has to assign it to somebody, but everybody uses it. It’s everybody’s problem.”