NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An elderly gentleman in the Bronx said he is the victim of good intentions.
As CBS2’s Emily Smith reported Monday, a tree planted outside his home has become a constant concern.
Celeste Russo – the daughter of John DeStefano, 90 – never thought a tree planted by the city would ever cost so much anxiety or money.
“If someone fell here and got hurt, we would definitely be liable, and we would be sued,” she said. “And everything that my dad worked for his whole life could go up in a lawsuit.”
“It’s the city’s tree,” DeStefano himself explained, “until I’m responsible for it.”
DeStefano shared a photo of the broken sidewalk alongside the tree at its worst. About a year ago, he asked a street paving crew to put some asphalt over the crack.
But its roots continue to lift the sidewalk outside his Pelham Bay home, and DeStefano said the roots also caused flooding in his basement. He got stuck with a bill from Roto-Rooter for more than $300 in plumbing repairs.
The DeStefanos have been trying to convince the city to fix their Wilkinson Street sidewalk since 2009, even having state Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-The Bronx/Westchester County) write a letter.
But a Department of Parks and Recreation representative said when they addressed the tree and the sidewalk, it received a score of 70 out of 100. It needs to get an 80 for immediate help.
Repairs are prioritized according to severity of damage, the percentage of the sidewalk impacted, tree condition, and whether the sidewalk is in a high-traffic area.
DeStefano wants the tree gone completely, but does not think he should have to pay for it.
“What are you going to pay, $3,(000), $4,000 to get rid of the tree?” he said “I’d be dead before that.”
A homeowner is not even allowed to take down a healthy tree, according to the Parks Department. The representative also said an owner can get reimbursed for sidewalk repairs, but the city Comptroller’s Office determines how much will be reimbursed.
Russo said no one from the city ever told her that.
And the DeStefanos’ neighbors said they are not alone. Overgrown roots have been a problem for years.
A neighboring homeowner said the sidewalk constantly cracks because of his tree, and he pays out of pocket every seven years.
The DeStefanos said they would like to see the city’s Trees &Sidewalks Program doing what it touts – replacing and repairing broken concrete caused by city-owned trees that keep cropping up whether owners like them or not.
The Parks Department has allocated a budget of $6 million a year to repair sidewalks, which equates to about 1,200 repairs a year.