Sunday, October 6, 2013

Parks Department Refuses To Fix Dangerous Sidewalk Around Brooklyn's Borough Hall

Trip Hazzard. Tourists balance on crumbling bluestones last week in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall near Court Street.  For years the public has complained about the dangerous conditions. Despite being aware of the public safety issue for more than a decade the Parks Department has refused to fix the problems and is now attempting to rely on expensive capital dollars instead of "expense" dollars to address what should be basic maintenance needs. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) click to enlarge

Just five months ago,  the Parks Department promised to spend nearly $10M in capital funds but no one allocated the money.  Meanwhile Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has earmarked $ 60 million dollars to build an amphitheater but has refused to allocated a penny to ensure the public can traverse safely around Borough Hall.


The city has abandoned its own long-delayed plan to fix the crumbling bluestones in front of Borough Hall — and is dumping the blame on the very politicians who have complained about the bone-breaking mess, according to the New York Daily News.

In April, the Parks Department announced it wanted to spend up to $9.5 million to replace the disintegrating tiles on Brooklyn's most visible plaza. But five months later, the Bloomberg administration has not set aside a single dime for the project — nor has any Brooklyn pol.

Advocates for parks — and untwisted ankles — are fuming.

"It's outrageous that the Parks Department continues to put the city at risk instead of fixing what has been a problem for many, many years," said Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, a watchdog group.

The bluestone coverage in the plaza is thin and fragile — yet for years, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz let people drive and park on the plaza, a move banned by his predecessor. The result is pocked pavement and petrified pedestrians.    

"It's disgusting and gangrenous," said senior Rosemarie Markgraf, who struggles to keep her balance whenever she strolls past the historic building and nearby courthouses.

Earlier this summer, an unidentified woman screamed out in pain after she stumbled on the stones. Paramedics rushed to the scene as stunned onlookers tried to comfort her.

And in 2010, a 71-year-old Fort Greene resident sued the city after she tripped and fractured her hip on the cracked slate. Her cases is still hobbling through the legal system.

"I'm still scared to walk there. It really needs to be fixed," said the plaintiff, Joan Bassin.

Markowitz has repeatedly said fixing the minefield outside the county seat is a top priority.  

Lookout below: An unidentified woman tripped and fell on the crumbling bluestones in front of Borough Hall earlier this summer.

How many more people have to get hurt? An unidentified woman tripped and fell on the crumbling bluestones in front of Borough Hall earlier this summer.   The Parks Department has laid off many of the skilled laborers that used to address these issues. (Photo: Reuven Blau/New York Daily News)

But the boisterous beep has never earmarked any of his capital funds towards the rock revamp.

"No funds have been allocated to our budget for the pavement surrounding Borough Hall," said Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor.

Still, Markowitz has begged the city to take care of it.

"I have time and again requested the city to make complete repairs," Markowitz said in a statement.

"It is my hope that media attention can be the catalyst to make this renovation a reality."

The plaza is the epicenter of popular events like the recent Brooklyn Book Festival and numerous afternoon concerts.

"It's the people's house and a very important building," said Bob Furman of the Brooklyn Preservation Council, whose wife fell on the cracked stones a few months ago. She didn't sue, but many have, though city officials refuse to disclose the exact number slip-and-fall plaintiffs.   

In November 2011, Community Board 2 officials wanted to find out how much the stone age problem has cost the city, so they filed a request under the Freedom of Information Law seeking a list of all the lawsuits and city settlements. The request was denied.

 "We haven't heard back," said District Manager Robert Perris. Critics of the department contend that lack of staffing has also stalled the discussed overhaul.

Since 1990, the Parks Department workforce has been cut by 5% each year.

"There aren't enough skilled workers in parks to attend to these much needed projects," said Joe Puleo, president of Local 983 of District Council 37, which represents the parks workers.

"And ultimately it ends up costing the city much more in lawsuits as a result of this."  

Crumbling bluestones in front of Borough Hall.  (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) click to enlarge

Read More:

Break a leg! City says there’s no money to fix cracked and dangerous pavement at Brooklyn Borough Hall  Only five months ago, Parks Department promised to spend nearly $10M. But no one allocated the money! 
New York Daily News - Reuven Blau - October 3, 2013


  1. Marty Mark is all public relations and no heavy lifting. While he massages his ego by promoting his self-congratulatory amphitheater (which no one else seems to want), the impression left by the crumbling sidewalks within sight of his office holds his "beloved" borough up to ridicule. Thankfully, he'll be gone at the end of the year. The next administration would do well to remedy this disgrace (yes, the money can be found when the desire is there) early on, as a gesture of respect for the borough.

  2. Several years ago when the bluestone was repaired AGAIN I posted comments on how inappropriate bluestone was for this location. It is THE WRONG ROCK IN THE WRONG PLACE. It breaks when trucks run over it and trucks are on these stones often. It weathers badly and it does not respond well to vibration. Has anyone noticed that the plaza is over subway lines? It shakes. We would be better off with bricks - -- as in Boston's historic Beacon Hill - - or with the boring but less fragile hexagonal paving stones.
    Barbara Charton
    Brooklyn Heights