To say that state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is angry over the city’s 23-year backlog for repairing curbs would be an understatement.
The lawmaker joined several Bellerose residents at a press conference on Thursday, blasting the Bloomberg administration for, he said, placing more importance on creating bike lanes and addressing “sexy” issues — ones that would garner lots of media attention and praise — rather than focusing on more fundamental issues like broken curbs, some of which haven’t been replaced in over 50 years.
“Meanwhile, if you dare to complain to the city that you need your curb replaced, they will then come out and threaten you with a sidewalk violation ... even for the most minor crack, and I’ve seen examples of that,” Avella said. “The city will take years to fix the curb, but the sidewalk violation you’ll have to repair in 45 days.”
Avella called the practice “extortion,” and estimated that one in three homeowners citywide has a broken curb. He questioned how much money the city is paying out in claims as a result of its failure to make such repairs.
“This is unacceptable,” Avella said. “We pay some of the highest property taxes in the country. We are entitled to have the city come out and fix the infrastructure, which is its responsibility. The city needs to allocate more money for curbs and reduce that 23-year backlog to a more reasonable time frame.”
The lawmaker also said never before in his time as an elected official, first serving in the City Council before moving onto the Senate, had he ever heard of such a long wait time for curbs, nor could he recall the city ever admitting to such a backlog, until now.
Curbs are important for several reasons, but mainly they act as a buffer to prevent flooding. Roads are pitched toward the sidewalk and curbs are pitched so that the water drains into the nearest catch basin, Avella said.
Caroline Veraline has lived on 242nd Street in Bellerose for 54 years and said the homes on her block were built 62 years ago — and the curbs have never been replaced. She said she’s reported the problem to the city three times over the last decade, but was repeatedly told of the long waiting list.
“When it rains, we get floods on our sidewalk,” Veraline said. “It goes up to our driveway and some people get [water] in their basement or garage, because the curbs are broken up and they can’t withstand the water.”
Curbs are the responsibility of the city Department of Transportation, but home and business owners are responsible for the sidewalk in front of their property, up to 18 inches from the curb.
“Instead of doing this, what is Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan — what’s her pet project in the City of New York? Putting in bike lanes — everyplace — whether the community wants it or not,” Avella said. “And every time they put in a bike lane it’s maybe $50,000 worth of improvements. Well, how much would it take to fix somebody’s curb?”
Bellerose resident Evelyn Padilla, whose handicapped daughter is confined to a wheelchair, worries about her child’s safety as she must maneuver over the broken pavement. But she hasn’t reported the problem to the city.
“I feel like it’s a waste of my time,” Padilla said. “I’ve lived here since 1985 and the curbs have always been bad.”
A spokesman for the DOT said in an email that the agency allocates $20 million annually to make repairs to sidewalks and curbs, but requests to address curb conditions surpass available resources. A contractor does work in each community district in the city on a rotating basis, he said.
The spokesman said the agency will try to address the broken curbs in Bellerose the next time the contractor is in the area, but not when that might be.