‘Living here has become terrible’: Douglaston residents call on city to reclaim private streets

Photo courtesy of state Senator Tony Avella’s office

Douglaston homeowners facing quality of life issues on two privately owned streets want the city to buy back the roadways.

Residents of Willow Place and Stuart Lane stood with state Senator Tony Avella to raise a litany of complaints with their roads, which were sold by the city to a private owner years ago. Since then, residents say, quality of life has sharply declined.

“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.”

Stuart Lane
Stuart Lane

Residents called the city’s decision to sell the road a mistake. A lack of city services has opened residents up to safety concerns, including poor lighting and hazardous conditions caused by storms and inclement weather. After Superstorm Sandy, residents noted, homeowners had to find alternative means to remove fallen trees from the area.

“Living here has become terrible,” Kalesis said. “Nobody wants to come down here because they’re afraid. The quality of life is terrible.”

Photo via Google Maps
Photo via Google Maps/Adjacent Willow Place and Stuart Lane

Avella said the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced plans to release a study on the status of acquiring privately owned streets throughout the city. He claims he hasn’t received any updates on the study.

A DOT spokesperson said “Local Law 52,” which was enacted by the City Council in March 2017, requires the agency to obtain the location of private streets in the city from the Department of City Planning (DCP) and each borough president. The locations obtained are then to be submitted to Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson by June 30, 2018.

“Additionally, it requires DOT to review factors that may be considered or necessary for the acquisition of such streets where they may exist,” the spokesperson added. “DOT is taking the necessary steps to comply with this law.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) confirmed that the two Douglaston areas were sold to private owners by the city. In 1979, Stuart Lane was sold as part of a lot of land by DCAS at auction. Part of Willow Place was also sold by DCAS as part of a lot of land in 2000.

“Stuart Lane and Willow Place are not city streets. They are private accessways,” the spokesperson said. “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.”

Avella also announced plans to introduce legislation that would require the city to obtain private streets facing similar quality-of-life issues in the five boroughs. The lawmaker is asking residents living on privately owned streets to contact his office to be added to the legislation.

“I would appreciate hearing from any homeowners experiencing this issue so that I can make this legislation as comprehensive as possible,” Avella said.

Willow Place
Willow Place

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