NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Cracked and uprooted sidewalks are causing a rift between Staten Island neighbors and the city.

It’s a tale of two sidewalks on Caswell Avenue, CBS2’s Reena Roy reports.

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(Credit: CBS2)

A homeowner with a barely visible crack in front of his house was slapped with a violation from the city.

“They said it was a violation. I appealed the violation, and they said it was still a tripping hazard,” homeowner Bart Gorman said.

His neighbors went through a similar situation. One shelled out more than $100 to a private contractor to fix minimal damage. If he hadn’t, the city would do the work, but they would charge thousands.

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

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

(Credit: CBS2)

Directly across the street, however, the sidewalk is completely uneven from the roots of a city-owned tree, and the homeowner hasn’t heard a word from the Department of Transportation, the agency that decides what needs to be fixed and when.

“It’s clearly from the trees,” homeowner John Cockrell said.

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When it does involve a tree, the city is financially responsible for repairs, leading homeowners to believe inspectors may have purposely overlooked those cases.

CBS2 took their concerns to DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

Roy: “It appears that DOT inspectors are turning a blind eye to the repairs that the city would have to pay for … Why is there such a double standard?”
Trottenberg: “In places where cracks are caused by tree roots, that’s a Parks Department issue versus just cracks on the sidewalk that are the responsibility of the homeowners.”
Roy: “Right, but DOT inspectors, they’re the ones that issue the violations. They’re not even being issued violations, these residents.”
Trottenberg: “That’s not my experience. We issue violations all the time where there are tree roots.”

Defending DOT inspections, she also encouraged those who are still unhappy to reach out to the agency.

“You can complain. We’ll come back and reinspect,” Trottenberg said.

Willowbrook residents say they will only believe it when they see it.

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The DOT later emailed CBS2, saying the agency had initially received a complaint for only one side of that Staten Island street, hence the violations there and not for the uneven sidewalk across the way. They added that residents would have to submit an additional complaint to get that fixed by the city.