A man’s home may indeed be his castle, but on one Greenpoint street, the stoop is an entirely different matter.
The city has told several Monitor Street residents that they must remove wrought iron fences and front stoops — some more than 100 years old — because they are on city-owned land.
Two weeks ago, a Department of Design and Construction official told more than a dozen households on Monitor Street that their fences and stoops were “private improvements” on public property and must be removed to make way for new sewers and water mains.
“Should you wish to save the encroachments in order to reinstall them on your private property, you will need to remove them yourself prior to the start of construction,” the official wrote. “If you do not remove them, the city contractor will do so at no cost to you, but we cannot guarantee the condition of any encroachments removed in this way.”
The letter “pissed off” Arlene Reischer, who has lived in her Monitor Street house for 28 years. She claims the property is hers. Indeed, the city installed water mains in the same place 28 years ago and did not call for the property to be forfeited then.
“They want to take away our fences and we’ll have these air vents within what they claim is city property,” said Reischer. “For a hundred years, they haven’t considered it city property, but all of a sudden they’ve decided it is.”
But the city asserts that the fences and other “improvements” are in fact on public property and that the land is needed for updated water mains.
The street redesign is a component of a $15-million infrastructure project to add new utility pipes under Nassau Avenue and several side streets. Repaving of Nassau Avenue began in April last year with minimal disruption and has advanced with little controversy.
But the city’s request to permanently take the property and enlarge the sidewalk on Monitor Street struck Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint) as unusual and “totally crazy.”
“I’ve never heard of anything like this before,” said Levin. “Some of these families have been living there for generations. Clearly something is amiss.”
Levin and Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint) were set to host a town hall meeting with several city agencies on Wednesday in hopes of getting some answers for homeowners.
“No one forewarned them about this problem,” said Lentol. “The city should have organized prior to the sending of these letters.”
A Design Department spokesman declined to comment, saying the agency would respond at the public meeting.
Monitor Street Reconstruction meeting at Lutheran Church of the Messiah [129 Russell St. at Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint, (718) 383-7474], tonight, 6:30 pm.