Altruistic author helps Queens woman in need

THE COURIER/photo by Philip Hertling

An 89-year-old Fresh Meadows woman who lost hope in the city regained an ounce of optimism when a big-hearted benefactor — and a total stranger — mailed her a check for $1,000.

“It feels unbelievable. It feels like a dream come true,” said Anna Gallotta.

Gallotta is currently seeking remediation from the city after she was billed more than $2,000 for sidewalk repairs she was told she would not have to pay for.

The 198th Street corner homeowner was told in November 2005 to fix 350-square-feet of sidewalk, according to a notice of violation by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Four slabs were marked defective as trip hazards, the notice showed, and eight were considered broken.

But Gallotta, who pointed to a nearby city tree as the root of the problem, said she had previously filed a report to 3-1-1 and was told the city would pay for the correction. Otherwise, the senior said, she would have called on friends to repair only what needed to be fixed and not the rest of the sidewalk, which she said was in good condition.

Instead, the now-retired city school crossing guard said she came home from work to find her entire sidewalk under construction.

According to records, Gallotta was only charged for 265.02 square feet of the total 966.49 the DOT replaced. Still, it came to $2,266.96, which she paid to the Department of Finance in March 2010.

Gallotta, who is diabetic and relies on Social Security funds, said the colossal costs have been a huge financial burden on her and her family.

The DOT said the homeowner could contact the city comptroller’s office to have her request reviewed further, but a spokesperson for the city comptroller said Gallotta had 90 days back in 2009 to file a claim against the city, which she did not do.

A Courier cover story detailed a similar case in March of another Fresh Meadows homeowner who said he was bilked by the city in 2009 for over $2,000. He was reimbursed more than half the cost last month.

Gallotta did not get a dime back from the city. Instead, she received a $1,000 check in the mail from 91-year-old Leonard Weintraub, an altruistic and avid Channel 11 viewer who said he was touched by Gallotta’s story when he saw it on the news a week after The Courier made her story public.

“I can’t believe I got $1,000 from somebody that I don’t even know. I thought something from the city would have happened. Instead a total stranger did something,” Gallotta said.

Weintraub, an author and successful lawyer in Manhattan — who is legally blind — said he was raised by a charitable father who always taught him to help others in need.

“God was so good to me. If I can’t help a person that’s down on their luck, then I don’t [deserve] it,” he said. “I have compassion because people have compassion for me.”

The generous giver has donated to research and to other people he hears of in the news in need.

Weintraub said he felt he was not deserving of praise, since the check was not for “an astronomical amount of money.” He was going to donate $2,200 but thought other people would also help Gallotta out. Nobody did.

“If you need more money, just call me. We can’t let a woman of 89 down while the government is eating good steaks,” he said.  “We do what we can to help people out. People help people, and that’s the way I am.”

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