Exclusive: The Battle Over The ‘Sidewalk To Nowhere’

Has New York City Lost Its Mind? One Queens Family Thinks So

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s a story of government bureaucracy that may be out of control.

New York City wants a Queens homeowner to install a sidewalk on a block where other sidewalks don’t exist — and foot the bill, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer has learned exclusively.

Even in a city where officials sometimes make curious decisions, the Department of Transportation’s campaign against Whitestone resident Gretchen Brent and her husband is an A-No. 1 head-scratcher and she has a question for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Why did you pick on me for the violation? I just don’t get it. I just don’t get it,” Brent said.

The Brents got a ticket for not having a sidewalk on one side of their corner lot — a place that has been a swath of grass since the house was built in 1918. None of the other houses on either side of that Seventh Avenue block have sidewalks, so the Brent’s sidewalk would go nowhere – and they’d have pay for it.

“I’d say $7,000 to $8,000 I would say,” Gretchen said. “Isn’t it crazy?”

None of the other Seventh Avenue residents got tickets and if they did there might be unwanted consequences.

If the DOT decided to make everyone in the neighborhood put in a sidewalk then many trees in the neighborhood would have to be cut down, something that makes little sense in a city where the mayor is trying to green every acre.

“Harry,” one of the Brent’s neighbors, would have to cut down a veritable forest.

“There’s a lot of ugly things going on,” Harry said. “Don’t uproot our trees Mr. Mayor.”

So Kramer went on a mission to speak with City Councilman Daniel Halloran to ask if any of this makes sense.

“It doesn’t make sense and again it’s another slap in the face of these homeowners in the outer boroughs. You know Manhattan is a concrete jungle. They’re trying to do that to a neighborhood that in many senses is a pristine tree-lined neighborhood,” Halloran said.

The DOT made no apologies, saying it was investigating a complaint of a broken city curb on the other side of the Brent’s house, saw the grassy side and didn’t hesitate to issue the ticket.

Councilman Halloran said he is trying to get the DOT to see that green space is good.

Do you think this is sheer lunacy on the part of the City? Or should the Brents just be quiet and follow the law? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Marcia Kramer
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn !!!!!!!!!!!

    Here’s more. My non english speaking neighbor [not even on the block a year], reported a raised sidewalk flag in front of my house to DOT,I received a violation
    A little background first:
    I live in this house almost 50 years, The tree started lifing the sidewalk flag in the late 1970’s. I have called DPR numerous times at that time and since then. Most recently in 2009.The DPR inspectors told me I am on a waiting list and gave a prioroty number each time they visited. I was also told that if this situation was on a main thorofare the DPR would replair it immediately. I do have the reports they left with me on each visit. Now here’s where the s_ _ _ his the fan.
    After receiving the violation I called DOT. They bounced me to NPR. NPR told me that there is no contract for the year of 2011 and the repair may possiblely be made at the end of 2012, and I shold call DOT and they will make the fix.
    I called Marty Markowitz office and received no assistance there. I also visited my Community Board and was tols the DOT will not be around for another year, because they were in the neighborhood a short time ago. So haw important is the violation I receievd I’ve been all ready waitng 40 years to have this repaired. The 45 days mentioned on the vioaltion is just to have you call a cement guy pay for the repairs and get the cith off the hook.This is a sweet way for the cith to rape it’s citizens. It SUCKS !
    Most NYC home owner’s do not know our illustrious Mayor Bloomberg changed the law regarding city owned sidewalk in 2003. Prior to 2003 any sidewalk defect sited by DOT or if you called to report such the city would repir the damage at no cost to the homeowner. Bloomie needed $$$$ so he laid the repair cost on the home owner with a law that was insrtituted just like Obama care was, with out letting the citizens know what took place.
    This is uncontitutional and our mayor and leaders should be ashamed of themselves…..buts that’s not about to happen, they have no respect for the citizens they reresent. In their town hall meetings they’re lovey dovey, but behing closed doors they are without concience ! The city is broke, if you own a home , a car, use tobacco or drink, you are the citys and governments target. So I might take a suggestion I received from a friend who lives in a civilized city, “if you live in NYC/NYS GET OUT any other state will be like paradise” !
    BTW Mayor Bloomberg, keep on planting those trees…..your milliom tree planting program, they will bring in revenue for years to come !

    • jonni up the block

      To tree grows in brooklyn…… I live on your block and know the neighbor you mentioned .
      He is a low life a/h

  • Annmarie

    I’m having the same problem on Staten Island. I desperately need your help with this. My home renovation has been a nightmare. The City has their hand in your pocket at every turn. Runoff of rain from my roof had to be connected to the city sewer at a cost of $7200 even though it’s the same rain on my property as before, curbs costs will be $4000 when no one on my block or on the preserved land across the street have them. I’m desperate Marcia PLEASE contact me. My husband sent an e-mail through the CBS site and we haven’t heard anything. I could go on and on with the fees we have been hit with.
    In appreciation for any help you can give us. Annmarie

  • Dale Auburn

    This couple KNEW it was illegal when they bought the house, so it’s totally on them. The law doesn’t go away just because it isn’t enforced.

    • Gina

      Dale, their family bought the house in 1918, read the article and think before you speak!

  • Patrick

    Hey NYC, how come all the NEW homes that were built down 3rd ave off 150th street all have NO SIDEWALKS!

    You know what, leave us ALONE and fix our streets, so many are a total MESS! I have a business on Bell Blvd (where Avella has his office) and for years we’ve been requesting it to be repaved and it’s like driving through HELL!

    Fix it already!

    Carmine has the right idea, time to investigate and clean up DOT to much bs and waste going on!

  • chiker

    Leave it ti the City. Home owners to replace a sidewalk because it belongs to the city. Cause of replacement a tree that has its routes destroying the side walk. The tree cannot be touched. Sidewalk repaired tree keeps growing and sidewalk must be replaced again.

    Perhaps the replacement contractors contribute properly in elections.

  • sanman

    on staten island,some nosy body neighbor called to complain about someones sidewalk and after the inspector left half the block got notices from the city to replace there sidewalks. all it takes is one …hole.

  • ari

    Liberals like to tell you want to do.

  • ari

    The gov is not crazy they know what they are doing, but it’s just that they might do it for their benefit to get something out of it and not yours. I have seen it happen many times. As the saying goes power corrupts….

    It’s not what the city wants is what people want, by the people for the people ring a bell? Maybe construction people payed for a person get into office and they want favors to get more jobs like this one. It’s good to have friends in high places.

  • Junior

    Onl yin NYC does a homeowner have to pay out of their own pocket for something they will not own, and the city does! Freaking ludicrous. Same BS as the law that makes them clean the snow and trash off sidewalks they do not own but the city does. We pay taxes, let them clean and maintain and build their own freaking sidewalks! Government out of control!



    • Carmine

      I’m with you… for years DOT has been doing many questionable things, like paving roads that dont need it… (and Mayor B, is talking about cutting teachers jobs, reducing the NYPD and closing FDNY depts), open your eye’s, look in front of you Mayor???

      Everyone behind the DOT NEED to be INVESTIGATED, because way too many idiotic things have been going on for TOO LONG! I hope Marcia Kramer does some serious investigating and sees where ever penny they get goes, because enough is enough, WE ARE FED UP!

  • Ira

    It’s about time DOT leaves the TAX payers alone and focuses on the Millions of OUR dollars they are WASTING each year… go repair our streets (the same exact street they want that struggling family to add a sidewalk, DOT destroyed, (see article)… many complained and NYC turned their backs! Why isnt DOT repaving the road exiting the Whitestone Expwy, it’s like a WAR zone leading to a park? And what about 20th ave to a major Target/Bj’s shopping area, thats another war zone… oh lets not forget the road leading to the DMV in college point, that is a JOKE!

    If anyone want to see whats really going on around Whitestone and NYC, here is a good local source http://francislewisblvd.com/

  • VY

    The cement required here to lay the new sidewalk should instead be made into a set of cement shoes for the officials responsable for this travisty, and then give them swimming lessons in a place with a great view of the Manhattan skyline, the middle of the Hudson River.

    • Tony

      I agree, we PAY these city officials and they are getting out of CONTROL… they should focus on repairing NYC streets, or we should start repairing them and BILL THEM PERSONALLY!

  • JonnyM

    Uh…just buy a half bag of cement and fix the curb in a half hour….

  • Bernard Rabin

    92 years of greenery gone in a heartbeat. Many areas in Whitestone, Bayside, Malba and Little Neck, never had side walks, some had blue slate walkways that have withstood the test of time. Concrete sidewalks, depending on their construction last between 5 and 75 years. The city used to repair them and install them free of charge. Claire Schulman’s house doesn’t have sidewalks, pick on her and her neighbors, no wait that won’t work, she’s not an invisible resident, it wouldn’t work, the press would be up in arms over her being bothered.

  • jay

    Another example of Bloomberg’s administration run amok. Where is the accountability and common sense? Have there been complaints about this property? This same stupidity happened in Riverdale a few months back where the DOT demanded many homeowners pay for an unnecessary sidewalk to nowhere. Needless to say the homeowners won against the senseless city’s demands after bringing this to the attention of their local representatives and the press. Hand these DOT knuckleheads a shovel and have them fix our countless potholes instead.

  • Marie Warhola

    There’s too darn much cement in town as it is, There are no sidewalks on the block so why in the name of heaven put one where one has never existed? It would look ridiculous. It would serve NO purpose and once again we have big government intruding in the lives of peace loving citizens. Dictator Bloomberg is trying to outdo Dictator Obama and they both should be tried for treason.

  • DP

    If the city does NOT want to pave it, they should rent the space for a small, reasonable price of $10,000,000,000,000 per minute per inch of greenspace.

    Either way, they now should be paying this lady and all her descendants in perpetuity.

  • DP

    If the city wants a sidewalk there, the city should rent the space for a small, reasonable, sum of $10,000,000,000 per hour per inch of sidewalk.

    • MPK

      The city owns the space where the sidewalk would go, just like whatever city or town you live in owns about 5-10 feet between your property line and the street. Though the property owner retains the duty to maintain the strip.

      • Junior

        If they own it, let them a-holes build it! Let them clean the snow and garbage of fit too, that is why I pay taxes! The day the city comes to me and tells me I have to pay for something to be built on their property, well, enough said. Thankfully for them, I do not, have not and would nenver live in NYC!

      • Tony

        You must work for the city to make that sort of comment! We pay for everything and they own it and tell us what to do is COMMUNISM!

  • HooDatIS?


  • Fed Up

    At the end of the story, whoever wrote the story said:
    Do you think this is sheer lunacy on the part of the City? Or should the Brents just be quiet and follow the law? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.
    Are you really that stupid, or are you just trying to incite people. I think YOU should be quiet and follow Bloomberg and the DOT to the asylum where you all belong.

  • Kathy

    DOT and Bloomberg have double standards, they need to focus on the problems they’ve created, like reducing spending and reducing our property taxes, people in NYC are struggling to make ends meet! WAKE UP ALREADY!

  • ed butler

    The city is run by idiots ….always has been! This is what happens when civil servants have power go to their heads.

  • joe cirillo

    If you damage a tree the D.O.T. will fine the s–t out of you. but when it suits them they’ll cut down the rain forest.it all comes down to dollars.

    • Gina

      Well put, on the one had they try to tell us to go green and on the other they remove our green! Dah!

  • jun824

    The world is going crazy!..

  • Ang

    If the city wants it, they should PAY for it. It’s not right, especially it’s been the same since 1918. Why change now?!

  • matt

    lunacy. Lets see if someone there is sane.

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