Gerritsen Beach sidewalks in disarray for years, residents say

a gerritsen beach sidewalk
Gerritsen Beach sidewalks have been in disarray for years
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Gerritsen Beach’s main thoroughfare has long been in a state of disrepair, with the concrete coming apart at the seams on the  sidewalks — but the city has ignored pleas to remedy the hazardous situation, according to one local civic guru.  

The city planted trees along Gerritsen Avenue, which runs vertically through the area, and is home to most of the neighborhood’s commercial activity, but the plantlife’s underground roots tore up the city-owned sidewalk, causing the adjoining sections to jut upwards or out of place, or break into pieces.

John Mooney, president of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association, says it’s been that way for ages, noting the full-grown size of the trees. 

“It’s been years. Those trees don’t grow that fast,” said Mooney. “I’ve been trying to get them to do something.”

A tree uproots the sidewalk along Gerritsen Avenue.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

But the yearslong quest for action has fallen on deaf ears, and the result is a sidewalk that poses an annoyance for most residents — and a potentially impassable and dangerous situation for disabled or elderly residents, Mooney says. 

“It’s a tripping hazard. Period,” he lamented. “Elderly, people with disabilities are unable to maneuver around it without falling.”

“Each one is of different size,” he continued. “The highest one’s gotta be a foot high in some of those spots.”

Another raised sidewalk.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

In one spot, there isn’t even a sidewalk at all.

“When they took a tree out, they took the cement out with it, and never put it back,” Mooney said.

The spot with the gap in the sidewalk adjacent to a tree, across the street from the Gerritsen Beach Library, has been that way since at least 2011 based on a review of Google Maps street view images.

The quiet, waterfront community is home to about 5,200 residents, and Gerritsen Avenue is the neighborhood’s main commercial stretch, running adjacent to Marine Park with a two-way parking-protected bike lane.

A section of sidewalk missing along Gerritsen Avenue, across from the neighborhood’s library, in Sept. 2013 Screenshot via Google Maps

City Councilmember Alan Maisel, who represents Gerritsen Beach, agreed that the sidewalks in his district are in a contemptible state, but said that he has prioritized spending his office’s limited capital budget ($5 million per year) on improving parks, rather than sidewalks, arguing that the sidewalks should be the city’s responsibility instead.

“Sidewalks are expensive, it’s a capital project,” Maisel told Brooklyn Paper by phone, noting that there is no shortage of sidewalks across the city with many in need of repair. “The city has to come up with the money to do it.”

“There’s limited funds, the question is do we do the sidewalks, or do we refurbish the parks?” he continued. “It only goes so far. I’m not using my capital money to fix sidewalks, I want it for the parks themselves, to refurbish and redo the parks. The city has to come up with the money to do the sidewalks.”

The same section of sidewalk in Oct. 2021.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner, per the city’s administrative code, but the section along Gerritsen Avenue is owned by the city’s Parks Department. 

The agency has a “Trees and Sidewalks Program,” specifically for severe sidewalk damage caused by the growth of tree roots, which helped remedy a similar situation in nearby Sheepshead Bay in 2017. 

A Parks Department spokesperson said that it is looking into repairing the sidewalks, and that the sidewalk repair will be added to the agency’s “capital needs list.”

“We are currently exploring several options to address the lifted sidewalks on Gerritsen Avenue and are doing a cost estimate,” said Department rep Anessa Hodgson. “Moving forward, it will be included on our Capital needs list as we seek funding. We remain committed to the improvement of Marine Park — multiple renovations are currently taking place in the park, and we recently renovated the pedestrian path adjacent to the sidewalk through a $1.2 million project in 2019.”