BY NATHAN DUKE
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and residents of two streets in Douglaston are calling on the city to take control of the neighborhood’s Willow Place and Stuart Lane and other privately-owned streets throughout the five boroughs.
The city’s Department of Transportation previously announced plans to release a study on the status of acquiring privately-owned city streets. However, the agency has thus far failed to respond to the senator’s calls for updates or details on the study as well as how recommendations can be made for which streets would be included in the study.
Avella said that he sent three separate letters to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg regarding the privately owned streets Willow Place and Stuart Lane as well as the continuation of 116th Street that connects 115th and 116th streets in College Point.
“All of these streets are actively used by residents and some are even used heavily by city agencies, but are in deplorable conditions and littered with large potholes, limiting motorists’ ability to drive safely,” Avella said.
The senator said that he would introduce legislation to require the city to obtain ownership of each private street. He also called on residents in his district who live on privately-owned streets to notify his office, so he can include them in his bill.
Residents of Willow Place and Stuart Lane said that the streets were once maintained by the city, but a private owner took over 10 years ago. As a result, the quality of life has declined, residents said.
“When we first moved here, it was beautiful—the roads were paved, we had garbage collection, we didn’t have to bring our garbage up the block, the road was maintained,” said Peggy Kalesis, a Stuart Lane resident. “Then, little by little, we didn’t know the road was sold, but started to notice no garbage collection, pot holes opened up and the road deteriorated. Living here has become terrible. Nobody wants to come down here because they’re afraid. The quality of life is terrible.”
According to the DOT, the agency would be required by Local Law 52 to obtain the location of private streets in the city from the Department of City Planning and each borough president and submit the locations to the mayor’s office and City Council speaker by June 30. Additionally, it would require the DOT to review factors that might be considered or necessary for the acquisition of such streets. The DOT said that it is taking the necessary steps to comply with the law.
In a statement, Citywide Administrative Services said that “Stuart Lane and Willow Place are not city streets.”
“They are private access ways,” the statement read. “Stuart Lane was sold as part of a lot of land by DCAS at auction in 1979. Part of Willow Place was similarly sold by DCAS as part of a lot of land in 2000. DCAS only purchases property on behalf of other city agencies or to support a city need. If there is no city need, DCAS would not be authorized to make such a purchase.”