NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Staten Island neighborhood is accusing city inspectors of having a double standard, claiming they’re quick to penalize homeowners but turn a blind eye when city funds would have to foot the bill.

(Credit: CBS2)

Bart Gorman says it’s hard to see a hairline crack in the sidewalk outside his house on Caswell Avenue in Willowbrook, but the city apparently saw not one, but three cracks.

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“They said it was a violation. I appealed the violation, and they said it was still a tripping hazard,” Gorman told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

The city’s Department of Transportation told Gorman he can either repair the sidewalk himself or they’ll do it and charge him north of $2,000.

They sent a similar letter to his neighbors for similar damage. The DOT took it one step further a few houses over.

“When I went to put my house on the market, OK, they found out there was a lien against the house to repair the sidewalk,” the homeowner said.

He didn’t wait for the city to make repairs and says he hired a private contractor who did the work for just $150.

“This was a hairline crack,” the homeowner said.

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“It’s typical city money-grabbing off homeowners,” Gorman said.

In New York City, property owners like Gorman have to foot the bill to fix a sidewalk in front of their house unless the damage is caused by a city tree. In that case, the city has to pay to repair it.

(Credit: CBS2)

“The things that I saw Bart describing over there don’t seem like they are in any way hazardous, certainly compared to the lift of this sidewalk,” John Cockrell said.

Directly across from Gorman’s house, the sidewalk is uprooted with two inches to trip over. Cockrell says he hasn’t heard a peep from the city.

Cockrell: “It’s clearly from the trees.”
Bauman: “So when you see your neighbors getting violations for far less damage and nothing for you…”
Cockrell: “Well, I think because of the roots. Like, maybe that’s why I’m not getting violations.”

“If it’s the city’s tree, they’re responsible for it, nothing gets done because the city is not gonna pay for it, but they want you to pay for something like this, which is not a violation,” Gorman said.

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CBS2 asked the DOT repeatedly about the double standard, but they avoided our specific questions and denied our numerous requests for an on-camera interview.