A Park Slope woman says the city’s sidewalk inspectors are shaking her down for fast cash.
Josie Williams, who lives on Fifth Street between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue, was stunned last week to discover she is one of 27 homeowners who must pay for the installation of “distinctive sidewalks” that are more appropriate for historic districts in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens.
The sidewalks are also, according to Williams, completely unnecessary.
“It’s easy money for them,” said Williams. “I’ve lived here for 31 years and my sidewalk is fine.”
According to the Department of Transportation, Williams will have to pay roughly $2,000 to replace the eight “flags” (the technical term for each square of sidewalk) in front of her home.
“If the city is concerned about sidewalks, they’re starting with the wrong area,” said Williams, noting that even the most damaged flag on her property only had cracks, unlike many sidewalks around the city that have bulging, shoe-grabbing trip hazards often caused by aggressive tree roots.
But a Transportation spokeswoman said that a trip hazard had been reported on that block, triggering the sweep by sidewalk inspectors that led to six property owners having to pay for the new flags. The spokeswoman did not specify the location of the 311-reported sidewalk hazard.
And the city defended its installation plan, which calls for either historic bluestone or tinted concrete, depending on what type was in place originally.
But is Williams being shaken down or gussied up? Depends on whom you ask.
A contractor who installs sidewalks in the area said that Williams was getting a bargain by paying $9.48 per square foot of flag.
“I’d hire that contractor!” said the expert, John Notarnicola. “That’s not a bad deal! Sometimes when the city [installs sidewalks] in landmark districts, it can get as high as $12 per square foot.”
Community Board 6 has been calling for just such a program for years — though District Manager Craig Hammerman said he was a bit irked by the way the city went about it.
“We weren’t involved in selecting locations, [so] I can’t tell you the rhyme or reason for why they selected certain areas,” he said.
Williams also felt beholden to a vague, obscure process that didn’t involve her.
“Am I getting some sort of diamond-studded sidewalk?” said Williams. “It’s around $2,000 without being consulted about the need or timing of the work. I have no rights here. It’s very bizarre to me!”
To top it off, the contractor doing the work would only tell Williams that her sidewalks will be replaced sometime this month.
“They don’t tell you when they’re coming, but they’ll bill you for it!” said Williams. “And if they’re going to inconvenience you, tough luck!”