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‘Lots’ of problems on one Carroll Gardens block

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Homeowners have turned their Carroll Gardens block into a “trailer park” by illegally using their front yards as parking spaces — and the city says it will finally crackdown on the brazen practice.

Fourth Place between Smith and Court streets has become the wild west of inappropriate use of the very front gardens that give the neighborhood its name.

“Parking is not permitted [in front yards] and none of the curb cuts are allowed,” declared Carly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings.

A quirk in city zoning states that the front yards along First, Second, Third and Fourth places are to be used “for courtyards only.” The rule stems from a decades-old decision to designate the front yards of homes on those blocks as actually part of the street, not the homeowner’s lot, giving the city control over what is built there.

None of the homes with curb cuts ever applied for a permit to do so, Sullivan noted, and the cuts would only be legal if they lead to a back garage or off-courtyard use.

She said inspectors would be dispatched to the block and would dispense violations if they confirm this newspaper’s indisputable findings.

“It looks like a trailer park,” agreed Maria Pagano, president of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, a civic group determined to have the city enforce the law.

Violators claimed ignorance, with many saying that their homes had curb cuts before they took up residence.

“It’s always been there,” said longtime block resident Dora Camacho. “We’ve never had a problem with the city or anything, and I haven’t heard about zoning problems.”

Her husband, Lou Camacho, didn’t see a problem with the cars in the gardens — particularly his own Audi SUV — or the curb cuts.

“I think it’s fine, it doesn’t ruin anything for me,” he said.

A four-year homeowner who wished to remain anonymous reasoned that the curb cut allows her family to park in the courtyard, which also features a carefully maintained perennial garden. The two can coexist, she said.

“Most of the people on the block are prideful of their gardens, and some also have driveways.”

Neighbor Ciro Pisci bought his house 40 years ago — and it had a curb cut and driveway back then, too.

“No problem, no problem,” he said.

But some neighbors are having a serious problem with the garden-gaffe.

“It’s just one steady spiral downward,” said longtime block resident Mark Butler. “Look at the other ‘Place’ blocks. There may be a couple of garages, but nothing like the front yard parking that our block has.

“Whoever is responsible for enforcing this is asleep,” he added.

The Buildings Department said that its inspections are driving by complaints, most of which come in though 311. None of the homes with curb cuts have any recorded violations for misuse of the front yard gardens, city records show, an indication that no one is complaining about the violation.

Inspectors last visited the block in 2009, responding to a complaint of a car sitting in a garden of a home without a curb cut — but Sullivan said no illegally parked cars were observed.

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Carroll Gardens) said that part of the problem is that the city doesn’t typically enforce parking violations, and the rule itself is buried in the voluminous administrative code, in a section on transportation.

“It’s a law from 1840 and there is no agency who sees it as their responsibility to enforce it,” Lander said.

Glenn Kelly, the co-chair of the land-use committee of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, said that a crackdown is vital, if only to deter others.

“If it is allowed here, then it will be allowed on other blocks, and we won’t have the unique neighborhood we enjoy — we may as well be in Queens,” Kelly said.

And cars are not the only courtyard interlopers. The neighborhood recently won a battle against the Hannah Senesh Community Day School, a private school that wanted to build an extension to its building on an adjoining First Place courtyard — but scrapped the plan after staunch opposition.

Still, the situation on Fourth Place may be a bit better than when Butler first moved to the block in 1982.

“Back then, there was a small boat in a trailer in one of the front gardens,” he recalled.

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Reader Feedback

Joe from Gowanus says:
Ms. Sullivan is misinformed - curb cuts are allowed with permit. However, the parking lot associated with PJ Hanley's has been there from before the time the ordinance was enacted, which gives us the insight to understand the intent of the code. Before cars were invented, 4th place courtyards were used for horse parking and there was no intent to elimitae that use. The ordinance prevents building in the courtyard (Hannah Senesh) and does not prohibit cars or bicycle parking. Sloppy reporting by Gary.
Aug. 23, 2010, 1:39 pm
wily coyote from greenpoint says:
Someday, cars won't be allowed anywhere in this city, not to mention their driveways. Give it up, get your cars out of my city.
Aug. 23, 2010, 2:01 pm
STLI from Crown Heights says:
Joe
the admin code does specifically prohibit parking and storage of vehicles in the courtyards:
New York City Administrative Code Section 19-132 states, in
reference to the gardens of Carroll Gardens, that "It shall be
unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, to use any portion
of a sidewalk or courtyard, established by law, between the building
line and the curb line for the parking, storage, display or sale of motor vehicles."
Aug. 23, 2010, 4:04 pm
L from CG says:
Hey Joe From Gowanus:

You are the one who is misinformed. The Administration Code explicitly forbids using these courtyards for parking cars. See below:

Code §19-132 Restrictions on First Place, Second Place, Third Place and Fourth Place in the borough of Brooklyn. The buildings to be erected upon the lots fronting upon First place, Second place, Third place and Fourth place in the borough of Brooklyn, shall be built on a line thirty-three feet five inches and a quarter of an inch back from the sides or lines of such places as they are now established by the map of the city, and the intervening space of land shall be used for courtyards only.

Code§19-136(b) Obstructions: It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, to use any portion of a sidewalk or courtyard, established by law, between the building line and the curb line for the parking, storage, display or sale of motor vehicles.
Aug. 24, 2010, 10:53 am
BlobC from CG says:
The cars are the least of the problem. What about the continual trashpile / garden / litter box in front of 117?
Aug. 24, 2010, 3:01 pm
cg resident from carroll gardens says:
first the parking, then the illegal outdoor restaurant seating. keep calling the inspectors and let's make it all legal..no cars, no buses left if CG, no outdoor cafes..let's get rid of it all...then everyone can stay inside and only come out on alternate side of the street parking days...seriously, find better things to do with your time. It's not a neigborhood anymore, its a landlord/tenant thing..it's a oldtimer/newbie thing..stop and think about the bigger CG problems. Learn to live together as neighbors...that's the part of CG that makes it so great..so call the city and see what else they can eliminate..toooo bad
Aug. 24, 2010, 8:07 pm
fourth place resident says:
we are far from a trailer park and was taken very insulting.being a person born and raised in south brooklyn now known as carroll gardens let's look at these buildings that are being built that don't fit into the so called carroll gardens description than looking at where cars are parked and for the residents that live on this block making comments about their neighbors should really think before they speak especially when they
have no cars and have no place to speak. people have nothing better to do then to look at where cars are and aren't parked.you should of seen their house going back years ago. and the so called carroll gardens association should pick up and pack it in.....
Aug. 24, 2010, 10:17 pm
fourth place resident says:
really surprised of alot of neighbors here when going back as to about a year ago their houses looked like an abandant front yards and now finally seen the light to fit in with the other homes..
Aug. 24, 2010, 10:25 pm
fourth place neighbor says:
As for the neighbors who have alot to say They really should look back as to how their front yard looked up to a year ago I would say an abaandant front yard They have finally seen the light . So you should really think before you speak.(like we say who ever spits up in the air it comes back to hit you.
Aug. 24, 2010, 10:29 pm
joe from carroll gardens says:
I find it ironic that there are people who actually complain about neighbors parking cars in front of their own house that their families have owned for decades, but they turn a blind eye to the ridiculous buildings going up around them that are ugly and enormous. The liberals in this neighborhood should realize that they are just guests of the old south brooklyn landlords. And that maybe parking wouldn't be such a premium if every church was not allowed to become an apartment building, and every lot turned into a 6 family house.
Aug. 25, 2010, 11:24 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
Wow, racist teabaggers live in Carroll Gardens? Who knew? What is a normal christian, anyway?
Aug. 25, 2010, 1:26 pm
4th Place resident from Carroll Gardens says:
The Buildings Dept. came and reviewed the properties. Only 2 violations were given out and all others in the eyes of the Buildings Dept. are up to code. At this point you can't change what the Buildings Dept. feels is acceptable.
There are many more important issues the neighborhood should be concerned with. Some of this energy should be focused elsewhere.
Aug. 25, 2010, 4:16 pm
cgresident from carroll gardens says:
So most of the cut curbs were legal..Bravo thank you wonderful neighbors...maybe you should check before you complain. Every tv channel covered this pitiful story making CG look like the wild west was back...Now maybe they can report on the hard feelings caused by this type of neighborhood "melding". So now we will have a historic district born from NOTHING..No illegal activity but who will say we're sorry to stir up this bad press.
Aug. 26, 2010, 8 pm
CG Neighbor says:
I believe the wonderful neighbor who became a celebrity in the paper and on Channel 2 should feel bad at this time. He became 4th Place enemy #1 for no reason. I wonder if he is as concerned about the eye sore next to him as the curb cuts. If anything that is a real eye sore now and when it is complete moreso.
Aug. 27, 2010, 12:45 pm
cgresident from carroll gardens says:
Oh well I guess we can all "kick this matter to the curb" Let's start working on getting back the public bus service for elderly and disabled residents. They mayor is proposing private $1.00 van service..so now ten vans will replace one bus..makes no sense...
Aug. 27, 2010, 8:22 pm
sean from court street says:
YEAH..OK... YOU JUST MIGHT GET YOUR OWN PARKING SPACE IN FRONT OF YOUR OVERPRICED HOME..

MOVE TO THE SUBURBS......
Feb. 8, 2011, 11:55 am

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