Brooklyn Boro

City lags on sidewalk repairs, report finds

July 3, 2019 Jeffery Harrell
A cracked sidewalk in DUMBO. Eagle photo by Jeffrey Harrell
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If you’ve ever tried pushing a stroller or a hand cart down a Brooklyn sidewalk, you’ve probably noticed they need some work.

But a new report from the Comptroller’s Office shows that the city has been moving at a snail’s pace to fix sidewalks damaged by tree growth — sometimes taking years before any work is done.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is responsible for inspecting, evaluating and ultimately repairing the most extreme examples of sidewalk damage that result from tree growth.

According to an analysis by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office, those who reported a sidewalk damaged by trees waited an average of 101 days for the agency to inspect the damage. In Brooklyn specifically, the average wait time was 190 days.

Once the Parks Department finally did inspect the sidewalks, the comptroller’s report found it took an additional 451 days on average — about a year and three months — to make the necessary repairs in Brooklyn, about a month longer than the citywide average.

One repair in 2017 took more than 11 years to complete.

Canarsie and East New York faced the worst sidewalk issues, with more than 4,200 complaints filed since 2010.

Stringer said the delays are a major liability for the city. In 2017, the city shelled out $1.3 million in settlements to people injured on sidewalks with damage from tree roots.

“Our city’s trees and sidewalks frame the landscape of our communities, and we must maintain them to support healthy neighborhoods,” Stringer said in a statement.

His office also found that the Parks Department did not have a time frame in which they expected to complete repairs, and advised the agency to immediately set goals for timely repairs.

Parks told the Eagle the report’s findings “represent a fundamental misconception of the mission of the Trees and Sidewalks program. Repairs are prioritized based on relative risk to public safety and impact on the tree — not the age of the service requests.”

According to the agency, property owners are responsible for damage to sidewalks on their property, not Parks. Their role is simply to repair the most extreme cases.

The comptroller’s report, though, noted that more than 1,500 complaints had no record of an inspection by Parks. He recommended an overhaul of the department’s record-keeping.

“New Yorkers often have to wait more than a year for basic maintenance. That delay could be the difference between an accident and a safe walk or passage for a stroller or a wheelchair,” said Stringer. “We can’t wait until the worst happens.”


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