EXCLUSIVE: No Concrete Action Taken After Cracked Sidewalk Complaints To NYC

Thousands of New Yorkers have been complaining to politicians and through the NYC 311 system about tree roots lifting up sidewalks. Over the last 15 years Assemblyman Dov Hikind has been trying to get the city to expedite and fix sidewalks damaged by tree roots.

In 2015 Hikind sent out a press release and wrote, “The city is responsible for sidewalk repairs if the roots from a city-owned tree are damaging the sidewalk, but there are tremendous delays. If you trim the city-owned tree in front of your house, the city will right away issue you a violation. But if the tree damages your sidewalk, you end up waiting a very long time until the city will make repairs. In the meantime, this is a dangerous situation.”

Homeowners who do spend money to clean their sewer lines or repair their sidewalks may be eligible for reimbursement. To file a claim residents must file an official complaint to the NYC Comptroller’s office  by calling 212-669-8750.

On May 16th 2017 NYC Mayor de Blasio participated in a Brooklyn town hall meeting. One of the issues that was raised to the Mayor was about pruning,inspecting trees and fixing sidewalks that are cracked and or ruined due to the tree roots. The Parks dept commissioner Marty Maher told the crowd that under the Bloomberg administration the average waiting time for pruning cycle was 14 years and under the De Blasio administration the average waiting time is now 7 years for the city to repair and or fix tree related issues that the city is responsible for.  Is 7 years something to be proud of?  Don’t tax payers of New York deserve better?  Pedestrians never tripped on a sidewalk because a tree hasn’t been pruned.

Making matters worse is when the city is cracking sidewalks while preparing space for a new tree.

In June of 2016 Brooklyn resident Mrs. Perlstein received a $15,000 fine for having damaged sidewalks. Mrs. Perlstein told gifteringotham media she complained to Councilman Greenfield, Assemblyman Hikind and called city agencies but  nobody has taken any concrete action.

Mrs. Perlstein attended the Mayor de Blasio Brooklyn town hall meeting and said she couldn’t get her questions addressed to the Mayor but spoke to NYC councilman David Greenfield after the meeting about her $15,000 bill for cracked sidewalks.

Photo: Shimon Gifter
Perlstein ordered to repair entire sidewalk for the estimated cost of $15,000 Photo: Shimon Gifter
Photo: Shimon Gifter
Mrs. Perlstein with Councilman David Greenfield at the Brooklyn town hall meeting with Mayor de Blasio 05/16/2017 Photo: Shimon Gifter

Gifteringotham media spoke to dozens of Brooklyn residents with claims of sidewalk tree root  issues.  One resident said he has been logging complaints to 311 for over 5 years and cases get closed while some are still open complaints. NYC park department recently responded to the latest complaint.

“The Department of Parks and Recreation inspected the requested repair site. The timeframe for repair work depends on available funding for the program, the severity of damage, and the other sidewalk requests in the surrounding district. For more information, refer to the information sheet that you received from the agency.

You have been enrolled in the Trees and Sidewalks Program, and current status is pending. Sidewalk repairs can take a number of years as repairs are made in order of priority. Your priority rating out of 100 points is 75.”

It’s apparent that the park dept. can take another “couple of years” based on the response from the City of New York.   The millions of dollars in lawsuits against the city of New York with trip and falls for sidewalks that the city is responsible for can be avoided for a $650.00 average repair by private contractors.

On April 24, 2017 CBS2 News did a scathing report on the NYC parks department handling of cracked sidewalks due to city owned trees.

In 2009, FOX 5 NY did an exclusive report and investigation on tree roots ruining sidewalks and about a group of angry homeowners in Queens that were told by NYC parks department that a stump that destroyed their sidewalk would take three to five years to fix.

In 2013 NYS assemblyman Micheal DenDekker held a press conference in Queens and said the city is responsible for cracked sidewalks due to tree roots. Dendekker said, “The city legally considers sidewalks to be city property, much to the dismay of one resident who spent $7,000 to fix his sidewalk, only to have the Parks Department rip up several sections to plant new trees.”

“We want this administration to admit there’s a problem,” DenDekker added.

He also pointed out that 885 claims, totaling $60 million, were paid out by the city between January 2013 and November 2014. The average claim was $67,000, but the largest was $2.5 million. These were for cases where the homeowner had not received a violation so the city was held responsible for the tree damage.

“Why a lawyer hasn’t done a class action lawsuit is so surprising to me,” DenDekker added.

The city is quick to fine homeowners that are responsible for cracked sidewalks but when it’s the city’s obligation it’s a whole different story.

We reached out to Councilman’s Greenfield office and were told,  “he will look into the matter.”

If you have similar complaints about the parks department please comment below or email [email protected]





  1. I have a house in the Bronx. I received a Notice of Violation from the DOT regarding the sidewalk in 2011. I then reported it to the Parks Department, because it was determined that the damage was caused by the city-owned tree. When I finally got a response from the Parks Dept, they informed me that my sidewalk issue was graded a 50/100, meaning low priority. As of today’s writing, they STILL haven’t done anything about the sidewalk (7 years!!) So I looked around online, and read about the Expedited Sidewalk Repair Program.

    One of the most frustrating parts of this whole thing is the red tape. I called 311, and they didn’t know anything about the Expedited Program. I didn’t want to wait for them to mail me a form, and then for them to receive my letter and process it; and the one online isn’t in a really printable format, so I asked if I can get the form from the Building Dept or the Finance Office, etc. Nope.
    I asked if I can fill it out electronically. Nope.
    I asked if I could speak with the department and find out actual concrete information (excuse the pun). Nope, “they don’t have phone numbers.”

    So I was about to printout the ugly-looking form from the internet, and I noticed that they asked for my Violation Number. Since I have no idea where that paper is, since I received it two presidential terms ago, I didnt have that violation number. And it’s not something that is listed in ACRIS, much to my confusion.
    So I asked DOT. And do you know how they all suggested I retrieve this number? Go to the county clerk’s office, fill out an information request and wait 30 days.
    Yes, you read that correctly: The DOT is asking me for the violation number that THEY gave me, which they can’t provide me with, in order to ask them to repair said violation. As far as I know, in NYC, you can look up almost anything – water bill, building code violations, parking tickets, etc, in a matter of seconds. But to look up this particular issue, I need to submit a FOIL about myself and wait 30 days.

    So I had to do some serious digging and investigating, and a small amount of sneakiness, JUST to get the phone number to right department, the mysterious Sidewalk Management Department. And you would think that the people there would be upset, like “How did you get this number?!”, but they actually sounded like sweet middle-aged women (Perhaps they’re so jolly because their phones never ring). And the woman I spoke to was actually very informative and answered all of my questions. She seemed to have all the answers right in front of her. Why hide the gatekeepers??

    I asked her about this new Expedited Sidewalk Repair Program that they have. She also told me that she doesn’t particularly like the Expedited Program, because they bill the homeowner regardless if the damage was caused by the tree. By the way, this program charges homeowners a minimum of $24/square foot, while the going rate elsewhere seems to be about $9/sq ft!
    The nice lady then informed me that the DOT will be doing repairs in my neighborhood in April 2018, which is after ANOTHER NYC winter. Since the damage was done by the tree, they won’t charge me.

    So I am right now trying to choose between:
    a. Waiting and seeing if the city will finally repair the damage (and hope no one falls another winter)
    b. Filling out the Expedited Repair paperwork, getting it done “faster,” receiving the high bill, and arguing with the Comptroller’s office over it.
    c. Hiring someone myself, and then arguing with the Comptroller’s office over it.

    I actually came on your page, and others, because I was looking up the likelihood of the Comptroller’s Office actually reimbursing me. All I see, it’s a maybe.


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