For community activists throughout Queens who feel that yard violations are becoming a creeping concern to their communities, getting into someone’s yard (as in their business) at least, is the only way to curb violations.
“Enforcement seems to be the bottleneck,” said Alex Blenkinsopp of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association about the slow response he says the city has on checking in on the violations.
For Blenkinsopp, implementing yard laws requiring greenery has been an ongoing struggle since the Yards Text Amendments was passed in 2008. Propelled by elected officials such as then-Councilman and now state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Whitestone), who were concerned about the quality of life and the stress to the environment in low-density neighborhoods, the laws restrict what a homeowner could do to his or her outside property.
Prior to the code changes, front yards were not required to be planted but with them, a certain percentage of greenery had to be planted based on square footage, with 20 percent for a yard less than 20 square feet and 50 percent for a yard 60 square feet or greater. The laws also addressed limiting the number of parking spaces, curb cuts and fence height.
Despite Blenkinsopp submitting several complaints to the DOB, which would issue the violations, he says their response is slow and not thorough enough.
One of his grievances over an allegedly illegal curb cut and driveway was dismissed altogether since at the time of inspection, “they couldn’t locate the illegal driveway, even though the resident had put a sign on his fence demanding that people not block his ‘driveway,’” he said.
A search on the DOB’s website of a block in Forest Hills known to many as home to “McMansions,” shows four other instances of investigations which were also “resolved” because no violations were found at the time of inspection for curb cuts. One complaint entered in October 2012 for illegal paving has yet to be inspected.