Cut it out! Bensonhurst official demands mayor tackle illegal driveways and curb cuts

Cut it out! Bensonhurst official demands mayor tackle illegal driveways and curb cuts
Photo by Caroline Ourso

They want them to stop cutting corners!

The mayor must step in to force city agencies to crack down on selfish Bensonhurst homeowners who take away already-scarce street parking spots by illegally cutting their curbs and paving their front lawns into driveways, according to the neighborhood’s district manager.

“The [Buildings] violations are all bark, no bite,” said Marnee Elias-Pavia.

Pavia sent Hizzoner Community Board 11’s recommendations for how agencies should punish offending homeowners in an April 18 letter after board members unanimously adopted the resolution to do so at its April 12 general meeting. In the letter, Pavia outlined the decades-old problem and its environmental impact — made worse by the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency classified some affected areas as particularly susceptible to flooding, which the proliferation of concrete and lack of grass promotes, she wrote.

“Our topography creates a bowl effect and prevents tidal and storm water absorption,” she wrote. “We must address the lack of absorption created by the removal of front yards in the northern portion of the district to increase absorption and resiliency.”

CB11 demands that the buildings agency make inspecting and even re-inspecting properties with alleged illegal curb cuts and driveways a higher priority — especially for flood zones — and to notify the community board when properties receive violations for illegal curb cuts or driveways. The letter also wants the city to improve inter-agency communication by having the Department of Buildings coordinate with agencies in charge of roads, parks and environmental concerns.

“There needs to be a sharing of information [among the agencies] — there’s an environmental impact, so the Department of Buildings should be sharing with the Parks Department, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Environmental Preservation, and working hand-in-hand to address the issue,” Pavia said.

Pavia also wrote that the city should increase and enforce fines for violations, push homeowners to use permeable pavements on legitimate driveways to help drain stormwater, and require homeowners to fix curb-cut violations before selling their properties — among other suggestions.

Department of Buildings inspectors aim to inspect curb-cut complaints within 90 days, according to a spokesman, and the agency is legally obligated to respond to every complaint it receives. But that the spokesman pointed out that the agency prioritizes emergency situations — so inspectors don’t do follow-up inspections after issuing violations for illegal curb cuts or driveways.

Data showing violations for illegal curb cuts and driveways are publicly available on the agency’s webiste, he said, adding that homeowners must seek permits from the Department of Transportation if they want to exceed its curb-cut design standards or the Parks Department if a curb cut application would affect city trees.

One outraged local who griped about the problem to this paper said he was glad the board was taking action, but wasn’t sure if it would make a difference in the long run.

“It all sounds good, but I’m not 100-percent sure anything’s going to come of it,” said Filipp Zaborenko, who lives on 64th Street.

The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.