Jo gets to the root of the problem

Brooklyn Daily
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Let’s talk about the sidewalk-tree root problem.

I’m sure anyone who lives within the five boroughs has experienced the lifted, uneven, cracked sidewalks that are endemic on blocks where the lush foliage of sugar maples live and breathe. The roots grow and grow, unchecked, creating havoc.

Recently our mayor was interviewed — sorry, I can’t remember the channel or day — but he said we should not to have to suffer with this problem and that the city should take care of it. There was even some mention that the previous contractor didn’t do it’s job, and that is the reason we are all still waiting for repairs. The mayor was adamant, as he walked along the tree-dappled streets with uneven, cracked sidewalks, that he was going to do something about it — especially in a re-election year.

At my Brooklyn home, we had two beautiful sugar maples in front of the house. The trees provided shade in the summer, a pile of leaves in autumn, and one big pain in the foot the rest of the time.

When we moved to the bucolic suburbs of Staten Island and chose a home, it unfortunately had a sugar maple growing front and center on the property. We knew that eventually the roots would grow unchecked and lift and crack the sidewalk.

Four years ago, the sidewalk began to rise, faster than Moses raised the red sea. We contacted the city to apply for the sidewalk restoration program handled by the Parks Department.

We called and called — five times in that first year alone — until an agent from the Parks Department finally appeared. The adjuster looked at the lifted sidewalk and declared we would be at the top of the list because the sidewalk was so bad.

We were overjoyed, delighted that we were so high on the list.

Did it happen? No. Four years later, we are still waiting.

In the past four years, I have made many follow-up calls to 311, received many complaint numbers, and been re-routed to many agencies. All to no avail.

Last week, after seeing the mayor on television, I called again. A very nice gentleman said I should call back in 48 hours for an update.

I did. And lo and behold, to my surprise — after nearly 30 minutes on the phone and countless checks of all the complaint numbers I had previously filed — I was told that nary a one could be found.

That’s right, 311 could not locate any of the many complaints that I filed in the past four years.

“What should I do?” I asked the 311 agent. “File another complaint,” she advised. So I did. “How long would I have to wait?” I asked. “Oh about 90 days.”

Ninety days?!? I’ve already waited four years. Why do I have to wait another 90 days? The agent couldn’t say — she wasn’t paid to speculate.

Not for Nuthin,’ but if the past is any indication on the future — I can bet that the odds of my sidewalk getting fixed by the city is about even money with the odds of Mayor DeBlasio serving a second term.

Follow me on Twitter @JDelBuono.

Joanna DelBuono writes about national issues every Wednesday on E-mail her at
Updated 1:34 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Mutley from Greenpoint says:
While I feel your pain about dealing with the city, however, you should be fair warned that it is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain and replace (if nessessary) the sidewalk at your cost, not the city. Be careful what you ask for
July 28, 2017, 7:18 am

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