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Village Forcing Homeowners to Repair Broken Sidewalks

Initiative to ensure sidewalks in Ridgewood meet ADA compliance, according to village.

Homeowners with broken sidewalks are receiving notices in the mail – fix your sidewalk or potentially face an appearance in court.

An intern from the Engineering department has been documenting sidewalks that do not comply with ADA standards. Once documented, a letter detailing a request to have the sidewalks repaired is mailed to the homeowner. The homeowner has up to 45 days to repair the sidewalk.

"The end result is we get to have better sidewalk conditions in the village," Village Engineer Chris Rutishauser said Tuesday.

Somewhere north of 130 first notices have been issued to homeowners in neighborhoods throughout Ridgewood, according to Rutishauser.

In many cases, the damaged sidewalk is attributed to the roots of trees in the public right-of-way.

Homeowners have the option of having a private contractor grind the roots and set a new sidewalk slab, or they can call the Ridgewood Parks & Recreation Department to grind the roots for free but still must have a contractor set a new slab. There is a backlog at the Parks & Rec department for root grinding.

Should the homeowner receiving the letter not comply within 45 days, another letter is sent offering an additional 45-day period. Afterwards, a summons for a court appearance is issued, according to Rutishauser. There is no set fine, he said.

Clearing a 4X3 slab of sidewalk could tally several hundred dollars, several contractors said.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

anonymous July 25, 2012 at 11:44 AM
The article fails to mention that the town requires a $50 permit from the building department for the permission to fix your sidewalk. Would be interesting to see how much money the town makes from this endeavor.
James Kleimann July 25, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Good point, anonymous. I should have looked that up. If say the village has about 130-150 homeowners receiving notices at $50, that's about $6,500-7,500. Those with broken sidewalks are also spending a pretty penny on having a contractor re-do the sidewalk. We could be talking about $400 in total.
Boyd A. Loving July 25, 2012 at 12:41 PM
This is a long overdue initiative. Some Village neighborhoods are virtually impassable to those using wheelchairs and/or motorized scooters. Thanks Mr. Rutishauser.
JAFO July 25, 2012 at 01:09 PM
When will the village start issuing fines to people for not clearing their sidewalk of snow? Talk about being impassable for wheelchairs and/or motorized scooters (and little kids walking to school).
RdgwdGRock July 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
who are the contractors that will replace a cement slab for a few hundred dollars? the village should publish a list. I have had cement work done, and the cement guys I spoke with don't like doing small jobs. since the uplifted slabs have occurred due to the town's trees, perhaps the village should replace the slabs at no-cost.
News Man July 25, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Careful where you go with this one. the long stretch of the curved Cottage Place street without sidewalks, is probably one of the most dangerous to travel. Mr. Rutishauser perhaps, has an answer for that one and why cars exiting Stop & Shop the Village has a sign prohibiting a left turn exit to that street (that has regular traffic) is that a selective type of ordinance? And are those residents exempt from having sidewalks? Some residents have wheelchairs and motorized schooters and are fearful of that road? In addition there is a dangerous 6-7 inch high concrete Road hazhard there that has damaged exiting cars. Suggest that be looked into also by the safety committee for a solution.
anonymous July 25, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I actually called the town to inquire about contractors and they said they are unable to make recommendations.
RdgwdGRock July 25, 2012 at 01:56 PM
go the Angie's List and you can find reliable cement vendors there. you do not need a contractor. James, where did the info come from regarding "Clearing a 4X3 slab of sidewalk could tally several hundred dollars, several contractors said"? sources please
George Ackerman July 25, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Let me understand this... The Village chose the trees that where planted, that caused the sidewalk to heave and crack and now it is the homeowner who is responsible to repair the damage caused by the village trees? Nonsense! The village chooses a shallow root tree, they will chop the roots, but not reset the slab. Each homeowner has to get a permit $50.00, find a contractor to do a small job which will cost more then if it was on a village wide program. It should be the responsibility of the town in the first place. Several years ago, I had the problem. the town came out, lifted the slab, chopped the roots and reset the slab. No cost to the homeowner. Why won't they do that now? Aren't our taxes high enough, already? It is time for the residents to speak up to stop the town from bleeding us dry!
RdgwdGRock July 25, 2012 at 02:06 PM
"An intern from the Engineering department has been documenting sidewalks that do not comply with ADA standards" What was the process? Did the intern walk every foot of every sidewalk through-out the village? how long did this take and when was it done?
anonymous July 25, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I had one slab of my sidewalk raised up by town tree roots. After getting the letter, I tried to fix it myself but the slab could not be lifted. I hired a landscaper to bring a bobcat, lift the slab, grind down the town tree roots, and put the slab back in place - cost $300 plus $50 for the permit. Not the end of the world but now I have a town tree leaning towards my house with half the root system destroyed. How long before it dies and falls? Will the town at least cut down all these trees that will be killed by the sidewalk work?
RdgwdGRock July 25, 2012 at 02:23 PM
that's $350 just to reset a slab. what if it is broken (as many are from what I have seen). then, it can be a much more costly job
Mary Deutschman July 25, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I live in Glen Rock.. I needed to replace few slabs to get a new CO in May, I used sidewalk safety. The town was very familier with them, they were quick, professional and reasonable. They range from 160-200 per slab.
scruffy July 25, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Suburban Sidewalks is a very reputable firm that several in my town have used for small or large areas. Give them a call for a quote as well. the town should be waving the fee since they undertook the intiative. Maybe see if they would do that.
Mark Ruckhaus July 26, 2012 at 12:45 AM
George, you beat me to it. I live in Glen Rock. And, many years ago, many trees were planted by the town and which are owned by the town. And these trees were placed on narrow grass strips between the curbs and sidewalks. And, as many of them are 50-100 years old 50 feet high and larger, it stands to reason that the roots would find their way under the sidewalks and heave them upward. And, as I do a fair amount of walking around town, I see this A LOT. So, whomever decided to plant these trees in Glen Rock, Ridgewood and other places, many years ago, played "Kick the Can," with most of them probably being dead right about now, while the current regimes, at least the one in Ridgewood, saying it's the homeowners' problem. My answer: It's your tree (the town). And YOUR tree, the one that could fall on my house if I grind the roots (of a tree that's not mine) and the one that was planted and grew right up through the power lines (great thought process there, folks) and which could take them down and also either fall on my house or certainly create a dangerous situation, did damage to MY sidewalk. So, Glen Rock and Ridgewood can legislate all they want to attempt to legalize their callousness and stupidity. As for me, if the issue was pressed, my answer is that I'll see the town in court.
Ridgewooder July 26, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Could not agree more with Mark R.
George Ackerman July 26, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Mark, thanks for your response. You are exactly correct. the people in our towns need to speak out vigorously about the burden the local government is putting on their residents for a problem that was caused by shallow thinking and shallow root trees that where planted years ago. I hope more people, like you, Mark, speak out and hold our local government accountable. Enough of not taking responsibility and being accountable. Shame on them.
Ron Olson July 26, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Boy, I'm glad that I don't live where you do. Here, it's the city's responsibility to repair or replace bad sidewalks, not the homeowners! I am responsible for keep it clear during the winter though.
Mary July 26, 2012 at 11:52 AM
permit is $60- I got one !!
Andrew J July 26, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Does waiting for the Parks & Rec department to get through its backlog extend the 45 day period for compliance? thx
jp1 July 26, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Ron Olson where do you live?
Vin July 26, 2012 at 05:36 PM
We had a similar situation, several residents on my street had several small cement jobs. We contacted a number of contractors and told them that there would be xx number of jobs that would all go to the lowest bidder. We received a much lower price per sidewalk slab and driveway bib based on the greater amount of work and using one contractor.
Ron Olson July 26, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Kalamazoo, Michigan. I got onto this site from an AOL thread and got interested in the other articles here. You get the feeling that maybe some of your city council members are getting kickbacks from the sidewalk repair companies plus a double-dip when you have to pay $60.00 for a permit to get the work done! Toledo, Ohio had a problem with the city requiring everyone being required to have paved driveways, either cement or asphalt. If you've ever been through Toledo, a lot of it is low-income ghetto that couldn't afford to have their driveways paved. You sensed kickback there also.
John Hahn July 27, 2012 at 11:44 AM
@ George Ackerman @ Mark Ruckhaus. Let's be honest the trees on our tree-lined streets were planted by people decades ago. They add to the natural beauty of our communities. YES. the streets on which there are narrow parkways between sidewalk & street many of these trees have been pinched by sidewalks & curbs. In some sections of Glen Rock the parkways were made wider to allow the trees to grow. These sections now have healthy, shade providing trees that make these streets cooler. There is no easy solution - re positioning all sidewalks would be very expensive. In many cases it would be impossible. The job of reaping sidewalks used to be done by the government. I know in Glen Rock in an effort to keep taxes down this responsibility was pushed off to the property owner. It does not come up until the home is sold and the sidewalks are inspected by the town. I believe this is an opportunity for the town to negotiate a sidewalk repair price with one or 2 contractors that all residents could take advantage of. There is a benefit if residents band together and buy together.
John Hahn July 27, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Great IDEA, Vin.
Elizabeth Cox July 27, 2012 at 02:26 PM
i have used sidewalk safety twice- they do a great job, but i agree- it's a town tree that caused the problem let the TOWN fix the problem-
SLDon July 27, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Valid point Reb
Here since the 50s July 29, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Have never understood why Village recommends (much less actually does) root grinding. We consulted many tree services about 2 Village planted street trees that were retroactively (many years after Vill planted) deemed ours. Every tree contractor we spoke with strongly advised to NOT do any root grinding unless trees were removed. They all said it would make the situation much more hazardous and increase chances of the trees failing. We even consulted an arborist with literally "no axe to grind" as he only consults and does no trimming or removal work of any kind. Same answer.
Whyaremytaxessohigh March 25, 2013 at 02:49 AM
I'm a relatively new resident and just got the letter about fixing my sidewalk. Get this...the towns tree is not only lifting my sidewalk But also clogged a pipe in the street so bad that it backed sewage into my basement costing me thousands. Both are my problem according to the town. The town told me it was my responsibility to DIG UP THE ROAD because they are only responsible for the pipe down the center. Maybe insead of our exorbitantly high taxes going towards people roaming the streets looking for poor sidewalk conditions, they actually help the residents out by fixing what's their responsibility in the first place.
RIDGEWOOD RESIDENT September 09, 2013 at 02:09 PM
This is another example of Village of Ridgewood government at its finest. There are bylaws protecting residents of Ridgewood; Article III, 249-24 and Article III, 249-31, respectively, but it doesn’t apply when it is not to the Village of Ridgewood favor. There are many cement slabs lifted that can't be repaired because any work performed on the Village of Ridgewood tree root system will upset the tree's health. With the current backlog, it is very likely the cement work cost and cost of permit incurred by the homeowners will be for nothing. The average cost is $1300-1500 per household; cannot lift/repair the slab(s) damaged by the Village of Ridgewood tree root, the surrounding slabs must be reset and, or replaced. The intern who performed the ADA study will be tasked next to study the number of homes having garages and mandating no overnight parking on a driveway when a garage(s) is available.

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