Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) recently called on the Department of Transportation to revise and clarify its Notice of Violation for damaged or raised sidewalks due to uprooted trees planted by the city.
Over the course of the past few months, Assemblyman Hikind’s office has received numerous calls from residents within the district who received a notice of violation after their property had been inspected and the sidewalk was found to have defects, including broken flags, trip hazards, freestanding or an improper slope. In the violation, DOT also issues an accompanying Inspection Report diagram informing property owners which of the flags are defective – a sidewalk flag marked with an “X” is identified as ‘non-assessable.’”
Due to a New York City law that states property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalks adjacent to their properties, homeowners may feel the need to fix the damaged sidewalks themselves.
“In many cases that we have documented, it is the thick, powerful roots of the city’s own trees that have raised or damaged the sidewalk,” Assemblyman Hikind said in a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “In conversations with DOT and Parks Department officials, our office confirmed that homeowners are not financially responsible for sidewalk flags that are identified as “non-assessable.”
According to the DOT official website, “tree-damaged flags of the sidewalk are non-assessable and the property owner will not be charged for those flags.”
However, Assemblyman Hikind went on to suggest that the letter and corresponding diagram homeowners receive are confusing and difficult to understand. The notice states that New York City law, under Section 2904 of the New York City Charter and Section 190-152 of the New York City Administrative Code, “require property owners to maintain the sidewalk adjacent to their property” and is “responsible for repairing all defects.” The notice goes on to state that the homeowner is required to take out a permit and begin the work within 45 days. Should the homeowner not complete repairs, the city may opt to hire private construction firms to make the necessary repairs and bill the homeowner.
“The notice clearly puts the responsibility of maintenance and repairs solely upon the homeowner,” Hikind said in the letter. “The notices are misleading. Nowhere does it inform the homeowner that they are not responsible for the repair of a tree-damaged sidewalk.”
Hikind added, “In the era of transparency, a notice of violation must clearly state that damaged sidewalk flags caused by tree roots are not the financial responsibility of the homeowner and they will not be charged. Due to the ambiguity of the violations, many homeowners, instead, elect to reach into their own pockets to cover the cost of repairs. I urge the Department to revise the Notice of Violation and clearly explain in an easily understood fashion which flags are the financial responsibility of the homeowner.”