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Don’t Block the Driveway: New Crackdown Planned

The first steps have been taken toward creating legislation that would confront unresolved problems related to the area’s myriad community driveways. City Councilmember Lewis Fidler last week introduced a home rule resolution asking Albany lawmakers to pass a bill that, he said, would give police officers, “Jurisdiction over cars that block the community drives.” This problem, noted Assemblymember Frank Seddio, one of the bill’s sponsors, has become increasingly pressing in recent years, “As new homeowners have bought houses and a number have rented their basement space, and the renters park in the community driveway.” Fidler told members of United Canarsie South Civic Association (UCSCA), gathered at the Hebrew Educational Society, East 95th Street and Seaview Avenue, that he was “delighted” to introduce the home rule message. He said that the bill, if it passes, would solve the perennial problem typified by residents who complain, “I can’t get down my driveway to get my car into my garage, and you call the police and say, ‘There’s a car parked here for a week,’ and the police say there’s nothing they can do because it’s on private property.” Fidler introduced the resolution in the council at the request of Seddio and Assemblymember Nick Perry, who need a city request to be able to introduce the legislation in Albany. According to Seddio, besides providing a solution to the issue of cars that block community driveways, the bill would also mandate the creation of homeowner associations for the residences backing on the drives, to provide a vehicle for collecting money that could be used for maintaining the drives, which are owned in common by the homeowners but which often suffer from neglect because of lack of agreement among the homeowners to fix problems that may exist. This is a problem that has been exacerbated by time. As the driveways have aged, said Seddio, the problem of keeping them in good repair has become more of an issue. “Today,” he noted, “if you buy a home like that that’s been constructed recently, you would be part of a homeowner’s association whose responsibilities would include collecting funds for the maintenance of the driveway. But, when these homes were built, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, no such obligation existed.” Nonetheless, noted Seddio, “Fifty or 60 years later, these driveways are in need of repairs, and no such fund exists. If repairs need to be made, homeowners have no obligation to pay. If there are 30 houses on a block, and a repair costs $30,000, each homeowner’s share would be $1,000. But, if 10 homeowners refuse to pay theirs, there’s nothing the others can do except go to court. “The legislation,” added Seddio, “would automatically impose homeowner’s association membership on any area that has a common driveway, with a requirement that homeowners be up-to-date on any debt the association may have to collect. It would also allow the association to give fines to people who are illegally parked or blocking the driveway.” In a subsequent interview, Fidler said, regarding the legislation, that his, “Only concern is that lawyers may question the constitutional basis of allowing police to come onto private property without a warrant. My view, as a lawyer, is that if the vehicle is in plain view, where the whole world can see it, I don’t see a constitutional problem with a police officer walking down and saying, ‘My goodness, there’s a car blocking the driveway.’ We keep coming back to this and back to this and back to this. When they sent me the bill, I was thrilled.” A large non-profit community based organization (CBO) will lose key funding if President Bush’s 2006 budget is approved, according to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton said the Bush spending plan will cut the Small Business Administration’s Program for Investments in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME), which provides training and technical assistance to low-income entrepreneurs, The Church Avenue Merchants Block Association, Inc. (CAMBA), 1720 Church Avenue, is one of several CBOs that have traditionally received PRIME money and then turns around to assist such entrepreneurs. “Given the critical importance of small businesses to our nation’s economic infrastructure, I believe that investing in the PRIME program is investing in American jobs, standard of living improvements, and a sound economy,” said Clinton. “With small businesses as the number-one job creator in America, we have a duty to nurture and support them,” she added. Clinton said last year the PRIME program provided over $1.5 million to a number of organizations and non-profits across New York that help with training and technical assistance for New York’s smallest businesses. As part of her efforts to have the funding restored, Senator Clinton wrote to the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, urging them to restore funding for PRIME in the Fiscal Year 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill. In her letter, Clinton asked that the bill provide $5 million for the PRIME program, the same amount that the program was funded in 2005. CAMBA, established in 1977, has programs in Bay Ridge, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Canarsie, Crown Heights, downtown Brooklyn, East New York, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Ocean Hill, and the Park Slope, according to their website. Formed originally as a merchants’ association, it has steadily expanded its services to Brooklyn residents and businesses. According to their website, CAMBA provides education, health-related, housing, legal, social, business development and youth services to approximately 28,000 individuals each year. The organization also serves persons of low-income; persons moving from welfare to work; persons who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or transitioning out of homelessness; persons living with or at risk of AIDS and HIV; immigrants and refugees, according to the website. CAMBA Executive Director Joanne Oplustil said the organization received about $116,000 in PRIME funding last year, which was down about 66 percent from the year before. “If he [Bush] cuts it out completely, those groups that were funded won’t have anything. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Oplustil. “We’re very grateful to Senator Clinton in her efforts for pursuing and being very persistent in insuring groups were funded and we hope she can continue the fight for next year,” she added.

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