Community boards look to de Blasio for curb cut enforcement

November 24, 2013 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Bill de Blasio, curb cut enforcer?

The leaders of two southern Brooklyn community boards said they are hopeful that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will pay close attention to quality of life issues such as illegal curb cuts.

“With a new mayor coming in, maybe they’ll enforce it,” Community Board 11 Chairman Bill Guarinello told his members at a recent meeting. Board 11 serves residents in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach.

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Brian Kieran, chairman of Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights), told his board at its Nov. 18 meeting that the leaders of community boards 10 and 11 will meet to discuss solutions. “We will meet with Board 11 about curb cuts,” he said.

That meeting will be the first step taken by a new task force Guarinello has formed to combat illegal curb cuts.

A curb cut is literally a cut in the street curb that allows for access from the street and across the sidewalk to a legal parking space within a property line. Homeowners are required to obtain a permit from the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) before installing the curb cut. Many homeowners seek to install them in order to create driveways next to their houses and have permanent parking spaces, eliminating the need for them to hunt for a spot on the street.

Not every permit request is granted by DOB. A curb cut cannot be installed too close to a fire hydrant, a tree or a utility pole. A homeowner cannot install a curb cut if the house is located close to an intersection where a car coming in and out of a driveway would interfere with oncoming traffic.

But scores of homeowners across Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend bypass the city’s rules and install curb cuts illegally.

Curb cuts are a sensitive issue in many communities across southern Brooklyn because they take away on-street parking spaces.

Still, many homeowners bypass city regulations and install curb cuts illegally. And they pay almost no penalty, according to Guarinello, who said that aside from issuing a violation, the city does little to enforce the rules.

Often, the errant homeowner doesn’t have to face the music until he or she is selling the house and the curb cut violation pops up during the sale process.

In addition to looking for action from the de Blasio Administration, Guarinello said he expected Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), who recently won re-election, would come up with legislation to crack down on residents who install curb cuts without permits.

“Councilman Gentile will be one of the senior members of the council,” Guarinello said. Gentile, who was first elected to the council in 2003, will have the most seniority, in terms of longevity, of any of the council’s 51 members when the new session begins in January.

Guarinello, who described the proliferation of curb cuts as “one of my pet peeves,” said city should come into a community, restore the curbs where the curb cuts are illegal, and then send a repair bill to the homeowner with the violation.

The city does the same thing in the case of broken sidewalks, Guarinello said. “The city goes after homeowners for a crack in the sidewalk, why not curb cuts?” he asked.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) regularly inspects sidewalks to ensure that they do not contain cracks, holes or other trip hazards. If a violation is found, the homeowner is notified and is granted 45 days to repair the sidewalk. If the homeowner ignores the notice, DOT comes in, repairs the sidewalk to remove the violation and then sends the bill to the homeowner.

Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11, has another suggestion. “Where they do it, the city should plant a tree,” she said. Under her suggestion, the city would plant a tree on sidewalks where the curb has been restored.

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