Throggs Neck grandmother receives questionable ‘defective sidewalk’ violations

(l-r) Councilman James Vacca, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and homeowner Rosa DeBartolo speaker about DeBartolo’s dilemma in front of her home on Friday, April 29.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

The city is hassling an elderly grandmother over some questionable sidewalk violations on a busy Throggs Neck residential street.

Rosa DeBartolo, the 74-year-old homeowner at the intersection of Randall Avenue and Cross Bronx Expressway Service Road, was subjected to sidewalk violation fines in November 2015 that she believes are unwarranted.

After requesting a re-inspection in March, DeBartolo received even more violations for an alleged broken sidewalk, trip hazard and a hairline crack in one of the concrete slabs in front of her home, she said.

Repairing the supposed damage would set DeBartolo back thousands of dollars, said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who along with Councilman James Vacca, held a press conference outside the woman’s home on Friday, April 29.

Benedetto said the legislators were calling on City Hall to use some common sense in the matter.

“We implore someone from City Hall to look at this, step in, and see the common sense of the matter,” said Benedetto, adding that “The message that is being sent by the city is to blindly accept the violation, because if you don’t and you appeal, it is going to cost you even more.”

The assemblyman added: “It is just not right, especially when the violations are so flimsy.”

There is no formal appeal process and no clear set of guidelines to ascertain what constitutes violation, said Vacca.

“It is at the inspectors’ discretion,” he said, “It is not fair for her to be singled out like the way she has been singled out.”

Vacca said that the worst sidewalk violation that he saw in front of DeBartolo’s property were the responsibility of the city: at either side of the corner crosswalk there was no handicapped accessible ramp, as required by law.

The city also wanted her to repair a slab that a city agency damaged during the installation of a road sign and replace a blacktopped area where commuters stand to board the Manhattan-bound express bus. The asphalt slab was installed years ago by New York Bus Service.

Many of the violations issued to homeowners are overreactions, and there needs to be transparent standards, said Vacca of the sidewalk inspection process.

DeBartolo, who has lived at her home for 42 years, said that it would pose a financial hardship to replace the sidewalk.

“If it is something that I have to do, fine; but I don’t see anything wrong,” said DeBartolo, adding, “I don’t think people trip here.”

Benedetto said that he walks the streets of his district, and that the condition of the sidewalk in front of DeBartolo’s home is not uncommon.

He pointed out that he was not blaming the NYC Department of Transportation.

“I do see sidewalk problems on the block…but realistically, what is the problem here?”

According to a DOT spokeswoman, the agency received complaints of a broken sidewalk nearby at 738 Qunicy Avenue.

“As per our procedure, all properties were inspected for defective sidewalks on this side of the block and Notices of Violation for defective sidewalk were issued to 16 of the 22 properties on the block,” the spokeswoman stated.

A DOT spokesman said that the city is sometimes held liable for sidewalk violations in front of one- to three-family homes.

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

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