Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Everything you wanted to know about illegal front-yard driveways

Photo from Daily News
From the Times Newsweekly:

Is it really too much to expect fellow Woodhaven residents to follow the law, and for New York City agencies to enforce the law?

When it comes to illegal front-yard parking, it seems so.

Across the neighborhood, some residents and homeowners have paved over their front yards and started to park cars there, although it’s against the law.

The result is that concrete has often replaced grass, drivers have been steering their cars over sidewalks even when there are no curb cuts (or, worse still, have been illegally cutting the curbs themselves), and some of these law-breaking drivers have even tried to prevent others from parking in legal street spots that block their illegal parking pads.

Turning a front-yard lawn or garden into a concrete patch is unsightly and might lead to street flooding when rainwater can’t escape into soil. Driving a car up and over a curb where there’s no driveway is dangerous and contributes to a sense of disorder in the neighborhood. Disallowing others to park in legal spots is selfish and reduces the amount of legitimate parking in the neighborhood. Most importantly, all these actions violate the law.

I’m familiar with the objections from those who believe they should be able to do whatever they want with their homes. That, however, is not the way it works in New York City. With so many people living in proximity to each other, what one person does can have a big impact on neighbors or even the community as a whole.

When you pave over your yard, you contribute to the destruction of the character of your block. You hurt the values of nearby properties. And you worsen the problems I mentioned above. The United States might be the land of the free, but that doesn’t mean you’re free to do whatever you want without regard for your community or the law.

Unfortunately, the New York City Buildings Department—the agency with authority on this matter—has been slow to enforce the law and to take action against those who create illegal driveways, carports, or curb cuts in Woodhaven. For instance, I called in one violation and even provided photographic proof. Three months later, the Buildings Department hasn’t even gotten around to taking a look.

I know that these complaints aren’t their top priority. They should, rightly, be giving precedence to imminent public safety hazards, like the building collapse on 79th Street near Jamaica Avenue last month. That building had more than 30 outstanding construction violations.

But the fact remains that three months is an excessive wait for an initial investigation into an illegal driveway. It diminishes residents’ confidence in the authorities, it sends the message that those who violate the law will get away with it indefinitely, and it's unfair to the many residents who follow the law and take pride in maintaining their properties.

Moreover, these front-yard parking pads are often related to other, deeper problems requiring attention. For example, many homeowners create them because of a parking shortage stemming from another illicit behavior: illegal conversions that pack too many people into houses, thus straining city services as well as the stock of available parking spots. And some residents chop down street trees in front of their homes in order to make it easier to pull their cars into and out of illegal driveways, further adding to a less green, more concrete Woodhaven.

The streets of Woodhaven shouldn’t look like one big used car lot. Woodhaven residents should do the right thing, and if they don’t, the Buildings Department should step in and enforce the law.

Editor’s note: Blenkinsopp is member of Community Board 9 and director of communications for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. For additional information on the WRBA, visit www.woodhavennyc.org.


Anonymous said...

Where are DOB, DOT, FDNY, and the rest of our city agencies who are responsible for this? Start handing out the violations and summonses...the city can make $millions

Anonymous said...

A concrete front yard:
Is that real ghetto looking or am I wrong?

Joe Moretti said...

Great well written article Alexander Blenkinsopp. Gets to the root of the problem with many of Queens quality of life issues that are just not being resolved by the city or our elected leaders. New York City, the greatest city in the world, I really doubt that.

Anonymous said...

So THATS why my sidewalk got cut up trees.

cause my neighbor is allowed to pave over their back yard.

who is paying for the trees and their upkeep?

where are the Greens? oh yes, working for the developer run Queens Library.

Anonymous said...

There is no enforcement of any laws so why should this be enforced?

Anonymous said...

It's all over Corona. This city is run by a bunch of dumbasses! NYC could make soo much money.

Give a warning with specific instructions and a deadline. Day after the deadline - send the workers out to rip up the concrete put back the lawn and then bill it at 150%. No payment - put a lien on the house and charge interest each year. Sooner or later the bill will be paid.

Anonymous said...

When you call 311 ask how long until the complaint gets a response - put the date, along with the complaint #, on your calendar. If there's no response within the time period, call and file a complaint about non-responsiveness. EVERY agency has a borough contact - let them know what's (not) happening. It takes a lot of work (that's what civics and council members are SUPPOSED to handle)

Anonymous said...

In Rego Park, I had an argument with a Russian immigrant when I remarked that I miss walking down the street and seeing gardens. He said "gardens are a waste of space, and that's why we cover them with concrete." Oh so now beauty and flowers are a waste.....I wish someone would smack them all with summonses? I wish those 12-foot concrete walls were illegal too, and the plastic awnings and big columns. It looks ridiculous to have a tiny townhouse with all that ornamentation, and the McMansions are even more crazy.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sure it might be an eyesore, but there are tons of cars in certain areas and finding a parking spot can be extremely vexing. Eventually you do whatever you can to get a spot, and if this is what it takes to get one, then you do it.

Anonymous said...

They can just pick a block on any street in Woodhaven, walk through and ticket everyone with an illegal driveway, it's not like they have to get access to a property it's in plain site.

Why does every Fedders house automatically have a driveway? Are most illegal? they always pave over the entire front which is obviously illegal but nothing ever gets done.

If you want to see a bigger s#i+ show go up to Mott haven in the bronx, developers built tons of crappy one family houses on the abandoned lots but crammed them together so tightly that most of the spaces between driveways don't fit even a small sedan. what ends up happening is people intentionally take up too much space so no one can park behind them on the few spots left, this is so they can later move the car up to allow a friend or family member to get a spot.

Anonymous said...

Is it the parking that is the "Root" problem or the fact that the city requires people to live in micro small environments, year's ago people actually had massive front yards, now, they show you a 10x10 yard and tell you that you should be happy. Everything is getting tiny from your grocery products to your houses and yards. I blame the city as well as home builders (the one's that are making the "money") on crowding houses and yards to make extra cash,(Think about it if the home builder doesn't have to buy a decent size lot they can sell a small lot for more cash) and shame on the home owner for falling for such an elaborate scheme! In order for us to have a better cityscape we must understand that crowding buildings and parking is just as disgusting. Let's get to the "Root" of the problem!

Anonymous said...

In the garden apartments on 140 Ave people have large cookouts in the front yard of their building. Since there is no longer a lawn they put down rugs to cover the dirt. A real disgrace and eyesore. Plus they live on the 2 floor their poor neighbors who live on the first floor.

Anonymous said...

Last Friday my wife called me and said "You're not gonna believe this." And it was such a good week. But some (insert explicative here) backed up into my 1 month old Jeep Cherokee at a high rate of speed smashing the front bumper, getting stuck in it, then ripping it out all together when they of course took off.

So WHO wants to park on the street??? It's for savages!

Then you go ahead and make a parking space for yourself and you people want to bitch about it???

In Queens, just like Brooklyn and I'm not sure about the Bronx and Staten Island (Manhattan forget it), parking is unbelievably difficult. First of all if you are lucky enough to be a homeowner with a garage space half the time someone's parked in front of it illegally anyway.

I agree that trading a front yard for a concrete slab is tacky but getting your car smashed in or ticketed winds up costing thousands. Then there are all the douch bag towing companies that say they're going to come and clear my blocked driveway Queens or anywhere else - if something else comes up that's closer you're screwed.

The one company that I use is ASAP. I've actually met the owner Mike who came the first time to introduce himself.

What can you say it's a dirty job but somebody's gotta do it.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Its all over Richmond Hill as well! How come people can get away with this here? It seems to happen where ever there is a specific demographic as well. Makes what used to be a nice neighborhood look like the third world countries these people come from!

Anonymous said...

Cops are too busy given out bogus cellphone tickets. Our communities are ran by idiots that don't care about how people live, but they make sure they live high on the hog. Lets see if they would like someone running a car on a illegal driveway blowing the fumes in their windows on a daily basis. OH wait, than it would be rectified

Anonymous said...

DOB dose not care. cops dose not care. who a few times reported to 311. end up a cops came
said, that is not thing they can do. really? this kind of dirty owner driving vehicle ingress from neighbor roadway-entrance. sidewalk is not for pedestrian? that is prepared for vehicles? New York city dose not want that Zoning violation money.