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Elderly Brooklyn Couple Claims Neighbor’s Construction Project Left Them Trapped

World War II Veteran Robert Foster: 'Me And My Wife Feel Like Prisoners'
Narrow stairs at Bushwick couple's home (credit: CBS 2)

Narrow stairs at Bushwick couple’s home (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An elderly couple in Bushwick, Brooklyn claims they are trapped in their own home thanks to a construction project on the stairway out of their multi-family home.

Robert Foster, 91, is a World War II veteran and said he and his 87-year-old wife both use walkers but have a hard time navigating the 22-inch wide staircase from their Putnam Avenue home to the sidewalk.

“It kind of made me and my wife feel like prisoners,” Foster told CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock on Thursday. “I can’t bring down my walker.”

Foster said he has been using a cane to make due on the narrow stairway.

“They wanted to divide everything up, so they did,” Foster said.

Their neighbor’s improvement project included putting up a fence, which split the original stairwell in two. The neighbor extended her own staircase but the couple’s staircase was left less than two feet wide, which violates code.

“She went against the law because it’s a joint easement and it was built for the enjoyment of both parties,” the couple’s daughter, Barbara Foster, told Murdock.

By law, staircases must be at least 36 inches wide. The couple’s daughter said she is concerned the current staircase is a safety hazard.

“It makes me upset because my parents are not able to do what they need to do,” Barbara Foster told Murdock. “[If] EMS comes, my father’s 91, my mother’s 87 — they can’t bring a stretcher up the stairs like that. They would have to carry them down in their arms physically.”

The Fosters have filed a lawsuit against their neighbor to try to force her to either restore the stairway to its original state or widen the staircase on their side to meet code.

“I’m not a spiteful person. I try to work with people but when they turn their back, what else can you do?” Barbara Foster said.

The neighbor refused to answer questions from CBS 2 about the construction dispute.

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