Linda Ferrone was in for a shock when she looked at her most recent property tax invoice from the city.
Along with her property tax assessment, the Queens Village resident was billed roughly $1,200 by the city after it repaired her sidewalk — 14 years after issuing the original violation, which occurred under the previous homeowner.
“Fourteen years later, they show up and start repairing the sidewalk,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who held a news conference outside Ferrone’s Stewart Road home Monday to express his outrage over the situation. “I think it’s inherently unfair for the city to ask homeowners to repair sidewalks they don’t own.”
But the city Department of Transportation said it made the proper notifications and violations become the responsibility of the new homeowner.
“Our records show that we made the proper notifications here and we hadn’t heard any concerns about the repairs until last month, more than a year after the repairs were made,” said DOT spokesman Monty Dean. “In any event, this sidewalk had trip hazards and other defects and there’s no question that it would have had to be repaired for the safety of everyone who uses the sidewalk.”
Since Aug. 6, 1995, when the violation was issued, the city never followed up to reinspect, Avella said.
“The sidewalk could’ve been repaired in the 14 years,” he said.
Ferrone said that since she bought the home in 2009, she had never received notice that the sidewalk was in violation and she did not think there were any repairs needed to be made.
“I had no reason to know why this was charged to me because I never got a notice that there was a violation. The sidewalk was fine and I didn’t know there were any violations when I purchased the house,” Ferrone said. “It might have had a crack or two, but nothing to warrant the whole thing being repaired.”
The $1,200 charge was almost as much Ferrone pays in property taxes on the home.
Despite her objections, Ferrone said she paid the bill because she did not want to be charged interest.
Avella is urging the city Department of Finance to refund Ferrone the $1,200.
“I think she’s got a case,” the senator said, although he said fighting the charge in court may be just as expensive as the amount billed to Ferrone.
“I think the city should own up to its responsibility here,” Avella said.
Ferrone produced a copy of what her home looked like when it was on sale and the image showed three sections of the sidewalk in front had been newly paved.
Avella said the picture showed that the previous homeowner fixed the sidewalk, but it was not recorded on city Department of Transportation paperwork.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2011 Community News Group
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