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Sidewalk Snafu Pits Homeowner Against The Town Of Oyster Bay

Is Town Overreacting To Slab Being A Quarter Inch Higher Than One Next To It?
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HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Is it a matter of sidewalk safety, or government going too far? A homeowner has been ordered to fix a flaw that is barely visible.

Ken Herbst told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Tuesday that his town is making a mountain out of a fraction of a molehill, ordering him to level the sidewalk in front of his Hicksville home and deeming it a tripping hazard.

“I’m just bewildered,” Herbst said. “It’s insignificant to me. Once you learn to walk you’re aware of things like this.”

Herbst said he doesn’t see the flaw underfoot. According to the town of Oyster Bay, one sidewalk slab is a quarter of an inch higher than the other.

“It’s just a blip in a road,” Herbst said. “Ridiculous with the amount they have there because they would basically replace every sidewalk in the town of Oyster Bay if they enforce this.”

The battle began when Herbst asked the town to remove two trees that were lifting his sidewalk. He was told he’s responsible for replacing the sidewalk slabs, costing $215. But instead of paying the town for new slabs, he leveled the existing ones, himself.

But letters kept coming, saying if he didn’t pay the fee it would be added to his tax bill.

Herbst’s wife said bigger hazards exist on almost every block and no one is cracking down on them.

“If you look anywhere up and down the streets you’ll see big gaps,” she said. “A quarter of an inch, they want them to fix the whole thing? Amazing isn’t it?”

Oyster Bay officials said they take sidewalk safety seriously. They don’t inspect sidewalks, but once reported they must be fixed to avoid injuries and lawsuits

But after CBS 2’s inquires, the town decided to foot the bill.

“[The town] will take care of the issue at no cost to the homeowner. For the safety of all — even a quarter of an inch must be up to regulation,” a spokesperson said.

When it comes to safety, the town official added, if you’re going to do it, you want to do it right.

Oyster Bay officials said homeowners and business owners are responsible for the safety of the sidewalks in front of their property, Gusoff reported.

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