Eyes on the Street: Converting the Sidewalk to Private Parking in the Bronx

Looking to add some extra off-street parking? No problem. Just pave over the sidewalk and fence it in. The handicapped-accessible pedestrian ramp can be your curb cut. Photo: ##http://goo.gl/maps/dmQ46##Google Maps##

Looking to park at 3059 Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx? There are plenty of options. The property has a garage, not to mention the free on-street parking. But that wasn’t enough for the owner of this property, who decided to commandeer some of the public sidewalk, pave it over with asphalt, fence it in, and use the handicapped-accessible pedestrian ramp as the curb cut to a personal driveway.

In recent years, there have been a series of complaints and violations registered with the city about the illegal driveway, brought to Streetsblog’s attention by reader Jay Shuffield. In 2006, the Department of Buildings found the the storage of three vehicles at the front of the property to be in violation of parking regulations in a residential district. The property owner — at the time, listed as Maria Aviles-Rodriguez in city records — paid a $480 penalty, but the illegal driveway remained.

In 2008, a complaint was registered with DOB about a fence erected around the illegal driveway, but a violation for work without a permit was dismissed by the Environmental Control Board. Last month, two complaints were registered via 311: A violation was served for illegal parking spaces, and another complaint about an illegal fence was referred to DOT. The agency says it issued a notice of violation.

It seems that paying $480 and putting up with the occasional violation notice from the city is just the cost of doing business when it comes to securing private off-street parking on public space in the Bronx.

  • Will the city dismantle it?

  • Max Power

    Since the city won’t do anything, the neighbors should.

    Get a cheap padlock, and add it to the gate (and a passive-aggressive note if you’d like). It’ll take the owner time to get it removed.

    Rise, repeat… eventually, they’ll get the message, or at least decide that needing a pair of bolt-cutters every time they want to move their cars isn’t worth it.

  • Daphna

    That is a great idea! The owner would not be able to make a complaint about someone putting a lock on his gate because his gate and fence are not even allowed to be there in the first place.

  • J.C.

    Looks like a great place to store my bags of garbage! Just toss ’em over the fence…

  • Anonymous

    Let’s start a tourist tradition where couples go to the Bronx and padlock this gate as a symbol of love! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Only a $480 fine? How about removing the fence, towing the cars, and sending the owner the bill?

  • Anonymous

    Yah, isn’t that City Property?

  • Joe R.

    If bicycles were parked there instead of cars the city would rip it out in a day.

  • Joe R.

    That should include the bill for fixing the sidewalk where it was paved over.

  • Driver

    It is possible that this is part of their property. Although it doesn’t line up with the wide sidewalk of the church, it appears to line up with the grass/sidewalk border of the other houses on the other side of Rochambeau Ave.

    It looks like they asphalted over grass. If they had asphalted over concrete, the level would be higher than the concrete near the gate entrance.

    Also, in general you are taking a chance of an ugly confrontation when you mess with someones property, even if you might be justified in doing so. The chance is probably even greater in many areas of the Bronx.

  • Anonymous

    Even if it’s their property, which I doubt because that sidewalk would look oddly narrow, I suspect it’s illegal to use a wheelchair ramp as a curb cut, and driving along a crosswalk to get to it. They have been fined for it, and it’s up to the city to get it removed, but the wheels of justice turn really slowly. Maybe in a couple of years the DOT will look at it and then who knows what may happen. Perhaps by 2025 it will be removed. Maybe if it gets into the TV local news it will be little faster.

    The point about avoiding confrontation is a good one, but that’s up to each individual to decide. I personally am not likely to be near that place anyway, and while I might fantasize of making a long trek into the Bronx to padlock that gate it’s not likely to happen for real.

  • Daphna

    It’s not their property. Is is the sidewalk which is owned by the DOT but must be maintained by the owners of the buildings that front the sidewalk. This person illegally put asphalt over the concrete flags of the sidewalk and then put a fence around it. It is clever because it is fooling people like you into thinking that maybe it was grass and maybe it is personal property. But that whole area is supposed to be sidewalk.

    I like the ideas of throwing garbage over the fence into that illegal enclosure, or the idea of putting a padlock on it. The person who has two cars illegally parked on that sidewalk, who illegally covered the concrete flags in asphalt, and who illegally erected a fence on to give him/herself personal use of that public space, can’t complain to any authority about anything that goes on there without drawing attention to his/her own completely illegal acts.

  • Driver

    “But that whole
    area is supposed to be sidewalk.”

    Do you have any proof or evidence that this is city sidewalk/public space and not their property?

    Admittedly I don’t, but that is the reason I proposed it as a possibility rather than a factual statement.

    It may be narrower than the church sidewalk, but it is comparable to the sidewalk width of all the houses on the next block which have fenced in yards in front of their houses.

    If you anyone knows for sure whether this is city sidewalk or private property, I would like to see the evidence.

  • That is so hideous, whatever way you slice it.

  • Driver

    For a similar example of a sidewalk suddenly going from wide to
    narrow, check out the block of Bainbridge between Mosholu and 201 st.
    The apartment building on the corner on Mosholu has a big wide
    sidewalk, and all the rest of the houses on that block of Bainbridge
    have front yards and much narrower sidewalks.

    The fenced in driveway is definitely illegal, but it is not necessarily city property.

  • Driver

    Take a ride (or street view) around much of the Bronx, it’s par for the course.

  • Guest

    You can easily check by visiting the city’s Digital Tax Map. Type in the address, which will show you the property in shading. Then switch to the aerial photo to see where the limits of the property compare to a feature you are interested in.

    In this case, you can clearly see that the entire enclosure, with a vehicle parked inside, is on the sidewalk and outside the property owner’s lot.

  • Guest
  • nanter

    I live right around the corner from this abomination. I’m happy to get this ball rolling!

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Even down here in Philadelphia, The Land of Sidewalk Parking (and the even more unique “feel free to park right on the concrete islands or any other form of median on Broad Street, as well as on every other single avenue and boulevard!” thing South Philly has going on, I’ve never seen anything as blatant as this.

    Though a few blocks down the street from me here in Kensington (North Philly / River Wards), I did notice one guy built a fenced enclosure around his bench on the pavement (Philadelphian for “sidewalk”). Probably to prevent it from being stolen, but still.

    Out of curiosity, I inquired of the city as to the legality of same. They told me that in that particular case it actually IS legal to build a fenced enclosure on the pavement, generally as long as it doesn’t extend past the stoop.

    I think it’s hideous (and I doubt anyone would disagree), but of course we were just talking about a bench being fenced. Not a driveway, paved over and featuring two parked cars clearly illegally using curb cuts for access and all.

    Ughh.

  • 3E

    I always wondered how residents in Philly are able to get away with just parking right in the median of major arterial streets like Broad St. I’ve never seen that anywhere else.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know, either. It really is dumbfounding, isn’t it? I’ve never seen such a thing anywhere else, either.

    It generally starts just south of Walnut on Broad, and goes all the way down almost to the stadiums. At least that cuts down crossing distances, though, so as weird as it is it’s somewhat slightly beneficial.

    Up around my way, in the rowhouse blocks of inner city North Philadelphia, it’s really a gigantic pain in the rear though, when the residents of entire blocks apparently decide that the sidewalks are for parking, and that’s it. I’ve never once even gotten so much as a general form response from the city, despite numerous reports of very obviously illegal motor vehiclist commandeering of sidewalks…

  • Anonymous

    (Btw, such median parking is a constant on Washington and Oregon Avenues in South Philadelphia, as well)

  • Anonymous

    I take you haven’t been to Mexico City? 🙂

  • James Reefer

    Under the BQE on Grand, there is a ton of cars parked on the pavement. Sometimes I wonder how they got up there, a lot of them are lowered or have low clearance, and that curb is pretty intense.

  • James Reefer

    The Bronx is absurdly gorgeous. Grand Concourse, Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay, Van Cortlandt Park, Riverdale, hell even parts of Tremont compare well to tony neighborhoods in other boroughs. They’re just not full of rich white people.

  • Driver

    Ok, I’m sold.
    Thanks for the great resource.

  • Charlie

    I think the city should just install some bollards at the corner one day, with the cars still parked there.

  • sammy davis jr jr

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