Sidewalk Care and Liability Hit the Pavement

 No doubt about it, the Big Apple is a pedestrian town: according to the New York  City Department of Transportation (DOT), over eight million people tread the  city’s approximately 12,750 square miles of sidewalks each day.  

 New Yorkers are accustomed to traipsing through all types of inclement weather,  but during the harsh winter months, making one’s way from Point A to Point B becomes even more of a battle. Winter weather  creates hazardous conditions that can be extremely dangerous for both drivers  and pedestrians, and while there are city agencies responsible for monitoring  and dealing with the icy side effects of freezing temperatures and winter  storms on public roadways, taking care of slippery sidewalks is a  responsibility that falls more squarely upon the shoulders of civilians—including co-op and condo boards.  

 The City Side

 The DOT is the agency that monitors and controls sidewalk repairs across the  five boroughs. In 1992, the DOT created the Office of Sidewalk Management (OSM)  to promote the issue of pedestrian safety to educate and inform the public  regarding responsibilities and procedures for maintaining sidewalks in safe  condition.  

 The OSM and the City Charter and the New York City Administrative Code  categorize city sidewalks into three major groups: City-owned property; one-,  two- and three-family owner-occupied properties; and “four-plus,” which includes all multifamily buildings and commercial properties. According  to Diane Altieri of the OSM, “The DOT now focuses its maintenance efforts on sidewalks abutting city property,  as well as one-, two-, and three-family owner-occupied properties throughout  the five boroughs.” For buildings categorized as “four-plus,” the property owner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of all  sidewalks abutting the property.  

 This specification is fairly recent. According to Robert J. Braverman, a  managing partner with the law firm of Braverman & Associates, PC in Manhattan, “Up until a few years ago, the city was responsible for the maintenance and  repair of sidewalks. However, the law was changed [in 2002], and now unless the  building is a one- to three-family residence—which would exclude almost all co-ops and condominiums—the property owner bears the responsibility” for maintaining those sidewalks.”  


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