2003-07-04 / Front Page

$idewalk Crack-Up Is No Laughing Matter

By Brian Magoolaghan
$idewalk Crack-Up Is No Laughing Matter By Brian Magoolaghan

City vehicles routinely park on the property owned by the city although nearby homeowners were fined thousands of dollars for the disrepair of the street.City vehicles routinely park on the property owned by the city although nearby homeowners were fined thousands of dollars for the disrepair of the street.

Theresa and Rob Ingui were shocked when they received an inspection report detailing thousands of dollars in fines and repair work for the sidewalk on the south side of their Beach 90 Street home.

The inspection, performed by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) in late March, called for nearly 1,700 square feet of sidewalk to be replaced. It listed almost 60 sections of concrete that were either broken, had structural integrity problems, improper slope, patchwork, and/or created trip hazards.

The Ingui’s knew for a long time that the sidewalk was in poor condition, they said, and had even photographed some of the parties responsible for the deterioration.

The reason they were surprised was because their land records showed the property in question did not belong to them.

In their first notice, dated April 14, the DOT said the Ingui’s were responsible for "repairing all defects." It further stated that work had to begin within 45 days "otherwise the city may make the repairs and bill [them]." The potential cost to the married couple was in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The Ingui’s pulled a property survey that was performed in 2001 from their records. It showed the sidewalk, which borders Rockaway Freeway and the El-Train, was city property. City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr., relayed the Ingui’s position to DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, in a letter dated April 24.

"It is the opinion of the homeowner that the removal of a train stairway and fencing at the Beach 90 Street-Holland Avenue station by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) caused this damage and they feel it is not their responsibility to repair said damages. They would like it to be noted that asphalt repairs on the sidewalk were performed by DOT who stated they could not repair with concrete," the city councilman’s letter stated.

The response, which came from the DOT’s Queens Borough Commissioner Joseph Cannisi, said, "If the property owners believe that the damage was caused by the MTA, they need to file a claim to the MTA."

At this point, Theresa, who had already said she was fed up with the "shenanigans," decided to bring her file of letters, documents and pictures to The Wave.

The MTA-New York City Transit responded to Wave inquiries only by pointing out that the "staircase was removed over ten years ago." The Ingui’s maintained that the property was not theirs, and that regardless of when the damage was done, they were not responsible to correct it.

The Wave contacted DOT representative Keith Kalb who took quick action and helped determine that the Ingui’s were not responsible for the sidewalk. Kalb deployed a crew to the area in question. After reviewing the findings, he quickly determined that the property was "probably city owned." He added, "anything on that side of the street," being careful to draw the distinction between the sidewalk in front (east side) of their property, and the sidewalk on the south side, "is not theirs."

About a week later, the DOT released a letter to the Ingui’s, the Queens County Clerk, and The Wave stating that the violations were "vacated and cancelled of record." Theresa and Rob were happy to hear the news.

"I’m glad that the city finally realized that it was not my property," Theresa said, after finding out that she and her husband were cleared of any responsibility.

Meanwhile, it is still not clear which city agency is responsible for the property, Kalb said. He added that there will be an "investigation" to see who should fix the concrete.

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