2007-08-03 / Community

Curb Cut Controversy Grows On Beach 118 Street

Wave's Bag Of Mail Filling With Comment On Parking Situation
By Howard Schwach

This photo, shot on Monday in front of 178 Beach 118 Street, shows the truncated driveway structure next to the house and the curb cut that does not go down to street level and is not splayed. Some residents on the street believe that the yellow-marked driveway is illegal, but the homeowners argue that there is a permit for a curb cut that was issued more than six years ago and that the driveway can not be brought to street level because there is a water cap in the way. This photo, shot on Monday in front of 178 Beach 118 Street, shows the truncated driveway structure next to the house and the curb cut that does not go down to street level and is not splayed. Some residents on the street believe that the yellow-marked driveway is illegal, but the homeowners argue that there is a permit for a curb cut that was issued more than six years ago and that the driveway can not be brought to street level because there is a water cap in the way. Where else but in Rockaway would a poorly executed curb cut has begun a war between neighbors that has exploded into the Bag Of Mail section of The Wave.

In last week's issue, Michael Soto, who lives on the beach block of Beach 118 Street, wrote a letter commenting on a parking ticket that one of his guests had received for parking in the "driveway" in front of 178 Beach 118 Street.

Soto stated in his letter that there is no driveway at that address, only a yellow line painted on the curb by the owner to save the parking space for those who live in that house.

Soto contended that the city stopped painting parking curbs yellow many years ago. He is correct on this.

In fact, Section 4-08 of the city's traffic code says, "It shall be unlawful for any person to reserve a parking space, or prevent any vehicle from parking on a public street through his or her presence in the roadway, the use of hand signals, or by placing any box, crate, handcart, dolly or any other device, including unauthorized pavement, curb or street markings, or signs in the roadway."

That rule makes yellow lines designed to save a parking space illegal and subject to a ticket, although the practice is widespread in parts of Rockaway and Broad Channel.

Other neighbors called and wrote to The Wave adding their anger over the lack of parking spaces, particularly in the summer, a problem exacerbated by people who save spaces by painting yellow lines along the curb or by putting up construction cones or basketball hoops in the gutter.

The owners of the home, the Ruiz and O'Rourke families, however, believe that they have been wronged by Soto's letter and have demanded an apology from both Soto and The Wave.

"We expect a retraction [of the letter] and a public apology be made in the same fashion as you allowed our integrity to be questioned," they wrote in an overnight letter to The Wave's editor.

With the letter, they submitted a work permit from the Department of Buildings issued in March of 2001, a permit that expired in May of that year, allowing them to build a curb cut with two splays in front of their home. The curb cut was built shortly after the permit was issued, according to Diana Ruiz, one of the owners.

In their letter to The Wave, the owners say that they have been trapped on numerous occasions by "people who allow their frustrations to disregard the property rights of homeowners."

A recent investigation found that it is clear that the yellow-painted curb cut is not clearly the entrance to a driveway compared with the other curb cuts on the block, and that it has no splays. In fact, Ruiz admits that it does not look like a driveway.

She told us, however, that the curb cut could not be brought down to the street level because there is a cap for the water line in that area that could not be disturbed.

"The driveway is legal, and we didn't know that painting the curb yellow was not," Ruiz said. "Perhaps we should just mark it 'Driveway, No Parking!' and let it go at that."

In her letter, Ruiz and the other owners charged The Wave with failing to investigate before running Soto's letter.

"It is beyond our comprehension how you chose to publish [Soto's] letter without being prudent. Is it not the function of the editor to thoroughly investigate any accusations before publication? Had prudence been practiced here, neither The Wave nor our home would have been placed in the position of defending or refuting false claims."

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