Country Club man alleges 311 abuse by neighbor

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj joined the press conference on “Revenge 311,” speaking out on the issue along with Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and homeowner Paul Calderone.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

A Country Club resident says he is being singled out for abuse by one of his neighbors who is using the city’s 311 system to file bogus complaints resulting in NYC Department of Building violations.

Paul Calderone was hit with 68 DOB complaints about purported illegal work on his private home in the past 23 months that originated via the city’s 311 system, with virtually all of them now dismissed as unfounded.

Calderone said DOB visits his home for the same infractions over and over again.

“I am a senior citizen; I am in bad health,” said Calderone. “Not only was I issued summonses but I was issued repeated summonses after they were vacated.”

Standing in his driveway on Wilcox Avenue with Assemblyman Michael Benedetto on Thursday, August 10, Calderone was described by the assemblyman as someone who is the victim of harassment or bullying by a neighbor taking advantage of the city’s anonymous 311 system.

The assemblyman said that based on his own investigation, the city’s 311 system, otherwise a useful tool that serves an important purpose, apparently has no safeguards in place to prevent it from being used as a tool of harassing neighbors or those seeking revenge.

“Common sense must be applied; you cannot let people use the city complaint line for harassment,” said Benedetto.

In cases where city agencies repeatedly return to the same locations, and respond to complaints that are mostly unfounded, a different approach must be taken, said the assemblyman.

One summons Calderone received, and was found guilty of, is one that most people living in a low-density zone are violating.

A 1960’s zoning regulation dictates that only one ‘pleasure’ vehicle can be parked on a residential property 25 feet wide or less.

Calderone, unaware of this obscure regulation, parked his second car in his driveway when he entered the hospital for open-heart surgery.

When he returned from the hospital he had received several summons for violating his property’s Certificate of Occupancy. The complaints were placed through 311

The summonses which originally added up to $1,200 were reduced after an OATH hearing to $450.

Benedetto said that his own family, who lived for years in Country Club, often parked several vehicles in their driveway.

It is a commonplace sight in Country Club, Throggs Neck and Pelham Bay to see multiple cars parked in a single driveway, Benedetto said.

Another open violation is for a wooden deck that was constructed decades before Calderone purchased the house, perhaps 35 years, according to the homeowner.

“Mr. Calderone constantly has (to go to hearings) and waste his time and waste the manpower hours of city administrators,” said the assemblyman.

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, a local real estate broker and property owner, joined in the press conference.

Gjonaj said that while people like Calderone and others throughout the city are the victims of harassment, others are not getting the city services they need because the 311 is overloaded with needless complaints and city agencies lack resources.

“Our resources are being deterred and being used as a weapon, in this case, as a tool of harassment,” said Gjonaj.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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