Thursday, May 31, 2007

In Coney Island, sidewalk blight and an evasive administration

So, who's responsible for the blight on city sidewalks? Last year, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) punted flagrantly on the question, when queried by Brooklynites regarding the condition of sidewalks bordering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Vanderbilt Yard.

Regarding Coney Island, a similar city evasiveness is evident, according to an op-ed yesterday in the New York Sun, headlined Sidewalks of Brooklyn. Coney Island resident Gabriel Schoenfeld recounts his frustration in requesting that the city do something about "the frightful conditions of the sidewalks here."

Though Schoenfeld sent copies to several people in the administration, he didn't get a response for 13 months. Joseph Palmieri, the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, didn't explain the delay but recounted bureaucratically:
Please be advised that by law, the owner of the property adjacent to the sidewalk is responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing the sidewalk discussed in your letter. Additionally, the property owner may be liable for personal injury and property damage caused by failure to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe manner.
The Sidewalk Management Unit will inspect the location and issue a Notice of Violation to the property owner, if warranted.


While the city couldn't help Schoenfeld find those owners, commentators on the Sun web site suggest he contact Borough President Marty Markowitz or do online searching.

For those following the Atlantic Yards controversy, Palmieri's answer indicates that the MTA was responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalk. When the MTA didn't fulfill its responsibility, the city's Sidewalk Management Unit should have stepped in, but didn't prevent the blight cited by the ESDC.

And the ESDC, when pressed, simply refused to answer whether either the city or the MTA were responsible for the conditions. (An interesting question: Had the MTA put the property up for sale earlier, would the blight have been remedied by the new owner?)

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