Tag Archives: sidewalk repair

City refunds bilked homeowner for sidewalk repairs

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Melissa Chen

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.”

Pol, residents demand DOT repair broken curbs

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


Queens residents have had their hopes for safe sidewalks curbed by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Senator Tony Avella recently united with perturbed residents from northern and eastern Queens – who have suffered with broken curbs in front of their homes for years – to demand the DOT “accelerate” their sidewalk repair program.

“DOT is failing in their responsibility to fix and install these curbs,” said Avella, who believes sidewalk repair is a borough-wide problem. “Unfortunately, it’s the homeowner who suffers in the form of sidewalks and streets that quickly wear away and flooding from the street into their homes. DOT needs to stop ignoring its infrastructure and start doing simple things like curb repair rather than taking on pet projects like adding bike lanes.”

According to the senator, DOT informs residents who report a broken curb that their request has been entered into the curb database for repairs.

Due to a “multiyear backlog,” however, the DOT states they may be unable to perform the reported curb repairs during the calendar year – a delay Avella calls “horrendous and unacceptable.”

A DOT spokesperson said the postponement has been caused by a high volume of repair requests, which greatly outnumber the department’s existing resources.

“Through our active program, DOT allocates $20 million annually to make repairs to sidewalks and curbs,” said the spokesperson. “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.”

With reports of a 23-year backlog, the wait for curb repairs has gone from months to multiple years or decades for some residents.

“We pay some of the highest property taxes in the country to live in this city, and it’s a shame that I have had this broken curb for what seems like forever,” said Catherine Andreucci, a Flushing homeowner who has been on the curb repair list for over seven years. “What makes it worse is the city broke it years ago when they were repairing the street. Ever since then, DOT periodically inspects the curb, but it seems they have no intentions of fixing it anytime soon. We have to park our cars carefully to keep from damaging our tires on the broken pieces.”

Along with the daily safety hazard of living with a defective sidewalk, Avella says residents who report the damage risk receiving violations from the DOT.

“DOT has created the perfect catch 22, where homeowners are required to repair their sidewalks before a curb replacement can be completed,” said the senator. “However, with the extended and uncertain timetable for curb repairs, a homeowner may have to repair their sidewalk several times before the curb is ever marked for repair. The city is forcing homeowners to repair their sidewalks on an immediate timetable while leaving them with no idea of when DOT will repair the curb.”