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Queens Chronicle

OPINION The curbs ... are too damn low! My bill would fix that

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Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2018 10:30 am

Government’s job is to solve problems and help people; not make situations worse.

However, for more than a year now, the Queens Chronicle has shined a light on how the City’s street paving efforts have led to headaches for homeowners.

Last week, the Chronicle reported on the plight of one of my constituents who has struggled for years with ponding and flooding in front of her property as a result of the uneven makeup of Eton Street in Jamaica Estates. The water buildup is a massive headache (“Residents: Eton St. needs flooding fixes,” March 29, multiple editions).

Instead of taking action to remedy the situation in front of her property, the City actually managed to make things worse. The Department of Transportation resurfaced her street, without considering the proper height of the curb. As a result, the curb is now level with the street, which has exacerbated the flooding in front of her home.

Sadly, this is not the only instance of how the city’s malpractice involving curb heights has impacted homeowners in our neighborhood.

For more than a year now, I have worked with another homeowner on the same block to navigate the bureaucratic nightmare caused by flooding conditions in front of his home. He took the extraordinary step of having his driveway reconstructed to combat the water buildup and flooding.

However, the city made his situation worse when the DOT resurfaced the street, without taking into account the correct curb height. In essence, the city’s repaving effort undid the construction that was done on his driveway. Fortunately for him, a Queens court ruled last year that the city was responsible for damages to his curb and must compensate him for the damages.

I commend the Chronicle for calling attention to these stories. Based on this reporting, along with complaints that I continue to hear about declining curb heights in our community, we need to take action to help homeowners and prevent similar DOT-imposed nuisances from arising.

I have reintroduced legislation in the City Council to require the DOT to maintain curb heights following street construction to sidewalks, curbs, pavement, and gutters. My bill reinforces the obvious: If the DOT is going to perform any street work, then proper curb heights must be maintained.

This is an issue of common sense, and dollars and cents. While ponding conditions can create floods and damage property, they can also lead homeowners to be charged fines by the city — which, if caused by DOT construction, is absolutely outrageous.

In the weeks to come, I will be working with my colleagues to gather support for this timely and important legislation. You can be sure that my constituents’ stories will be front and center.

We have a responsibility to ensure that government action is helping those whom we serve. My curb heights legislation is an important step in the right direction.

Rory Lancman is New York City Councilman for the 24th District, in central and northern Queens.

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