Homeowners will get relief from sidewalk repair violations, no longer responsible for city-tree damages

State and city lawmakers in Queens and throughout the city feel it what about time that the mayor’s office stopped fining innocent homeowners for street trees that have caused damage to sidewalks throughout New York City.

“We’re not just fixing broken sidewalks – we’re fixing a broken system,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday. “We tripled funding for tree-related sidewalk repair, but homeowners were still on the hook for problems they didn’t create. As a homeowner, I know how frustrating that is. Now, if a street tree causes damage, we’re taking care of it.”

State Sen. John Liu (D-Bayside) can’t wait to work with the mayor’s office and to bring about the rapid changes that could repair the cities sidewalks without hurting the pockets of homeowners.

“Hallelujah! At long last, the city is finally relieving homeowners of the unending burden and migraines of repairing sidewalks damaged by city trees,” said Liu. “For too long homeowners faced barrages of summons and violations and lived in fear that the city would impose a lien on their property – for a problem the homeowners had absolutely no control over. My office will work with the City to expeditiously fix sidewalks for the safety and well-being of homeowners and the public alike.”

Instead of fining homeowners, the city will be fortifying the Trees & Sidewalks program with the help of the city’s Parks’ Department.

“In 2005, the Parks’ Department “Trees & Sidewalks” program was created to benefit homeowners of one to three family homes by repairing severely damaged sidewalks impacted by street tree growth,” said the mayor’s office. “Today’s announcement builds upon the $16 million funding increase for the Trees and Sidewalk Repair Program in 2017. This tripled available funding and expanded Parks’ capacity to conduct inspections and sidewalk repair.”

The mayor hopes to tackle 5,500 damaged sites in New York City by the end of 2022.

“Street Trees are an important part of our urban landscape but have caused homeowners many headaches over the years due to sidewalk damage,” said Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows). “Ending the imposition of liens and violations to homeowners for damage caused by city trees is a commonsense policy that will improve the quality of life for many people in my district and across the entire city.”

Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, said he had complaints about the fines for six years.

“My office has fielded relentless complaints about liens placed on homes because of a sidewalk cracked by city tree roots,” said Constantinides. “I’m glad to see today that a bad status quo is changing and the government is taking ownership where it should have all along. It’s encouraging to see this also means a review of the 50,000 existing violations to determine whether the burden should be on the city.”

Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, believes thousands of homeowners will welcome the news and the relief from the city.

“In the past, tree damage on sidewalks has unfairly saddled homeowners with the responsibility for trees they don’t own, and by righting this long-standing wrong, the city looks to finally provide some semblance of financial relief to property owners throughout the city,” said Koo. “I look forward to working the Mayor’s Office, Parks’ Department and Department of Transportation on implementation.”

The city’s DOT will also work with the mayor in implementing changes.

“DOT works with property owners to make our sidewalks safe, but when city-owned tree roots are the culprit, homeowners should not be liable,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “We will review our records for violations and liens that can be canceled as we work closely with Parks on this common-sense initiative.”

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