Residents Say They Shouldn't Be Held Responsible For Costly Maintenance

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It’s a sidewalk standoff in one Garden State borough.

Highland Park requires homeowners fix decrepit sidewalks, but some say it’s not their responsibility and that it’s a safety issue, too, CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported Thursday.

It’s New Jersey’s first green community — a walking community. Instead of riding a yellow bus, the kids actually walk to schools on what they call a walking bus.

“Walking in Highland Park is so much a part of our culture,” Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler said.

And that’s why when people started protesting broken sidewalks in 2012 the borough decided to take action.

“It was important to us to keep our residents safe,” Brill Mittler said.

Sidewalks were surveyed and any slab off by three-quarters of an inch or more was designated unsafe. There were more than 1,000 of them.

The borough then delivered letters instructing homeowners to fix their shoddy sidewalks, and said it’s legal.

Fast forward to 2014 — more than 100 slabs deemed unfit still line the streets.

The borough is stepping up its efforts, marking each still unfit slab with an X. According to resident Kim Taylor, that’s not fair.

“I came home from lunch and there were Xs on two blocks,” Taylor said. “I’m not willing to do that one. Because if I do it now, two or three more years it’s going to come up again because the root system is so deep, so it doesn’t make sense.”

Homeowner and also attorney Mark Oshinskie agrees it doesn’t makes sense and has filed suit to put a stop to what he calls a crusade.

“The people didn’t plant those trees. The town planted those trees. So the town should responsible for them,” Oshinskie said.

One of the homeowners Oshinskie represents, Michael Ivey, said he was slapped with a summons and faces a fine.

“I can’t really afford to pay for it, $300-$400 per slab,” Ivey said.

It’s not just about the money. Homeowners fear repairs jeopardize the root system and during the next storm trees might come crashing down, Murdock reported.

Still, the borough maintains smooth sidewalks are a matter of safety, and the courts can decide whether or not homeowners must comply.

The request for an injunction will be heard next Friday in Superior Court in New Brunswick.

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