Who is responsible for repairing a broken NYC sidewalk?

  • Owners are considered responsible for repairing the sidewalk in front of their buildings
  • The Parks Department repairs some sidewalks when damage is caused by tree roots
By Jennifer White Karp  |
May 13, 2024 - 2:00PM
Broken sidewalk along Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn

A broken sidewalk along Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn. The cost of fixing a sidewalk can run about $1,000 to $3,000 according to online estimates.

Samara Karp for Brick Underground

Broken sidewalks are more than just bad luck for superstitious types. They present hazards to pedestrians and expensive repair jobs for owners because New York City law holds owners responsible for fixing the sidewalk in front of their house or apartment building.

Fixing a sidewalk can cost $1,000 to $3,000, according to the website for Eden Sidewalk Repair, a Bronx-based repair company. (A quick Google search turned up many NYC sidewalk repair companies with quotes in a similar range).

But if you own a one-, two- or three-family house—the NYC Parks Department may cover the cost of a sidewalk repair job if a nearby tree is the source of the problem.

Read on to find out more about who is responsible for fixing a residential city sidewalk.

Close up of broken sidewalk

For owners of one- to three-family houses, the Parks Department may cover sidewalk repair costs if a nearby tree is the source of the problem.


Samara Karp for Brick Underground

Why is it necessary to repair a sidewalk?

You may be required to fix the sidewalk if you are taking out a new homeowner’s insurance policy or renewing one. What typically happens is the insurance company sends someone to do an inspection, and if they find that a damaged sidewalk creates a trip and fall hazard, you as the owner will be required to fix it.

NYC’s Department of Transportation also sends out inspectors to check sidewalks. If they find an unsafe sidewalk condition, a notice of sidewalk violation may be issued to the owner, according to the DOT’s website.

What is a notice of sidewalk violation?

The notice is issued to “encourage property owners to repair their sidewalks to enhance public safety,” according to the DOT's site. There is no fine associated with a violation and an owner has 75 days to make a repair after the violation notice has been received.

A copy of the notice is filed with the county clerk and remains there until repairs have been made. For that reason, a violation could complicate selling or refinancing a property.

What causes a cracked sidewalk?

General wear and tear from foot traffic, the freeze-and-thaw of Northeast winters, construction projects, and tree root growth can cause stress to a sidewalk that leads to a crack, this article in the Cooperator notes.

Sometimes a growing tree trunk extend beyond a narrow tree bed, which can also create sidewalk damage.

What to do if a street tree causes sidewalk damage

Through its Trees & Sidewalk Program, the Parks Department repairs sidewalks in front of one-, two-, and three-family houses that are severely damaged by the growth of city trees.

Parks receives more than 9,000 requests for sidewalk inspections each year. Repairs are prioritized according to a rating system that includes the severity of damage, amount of pedestrian traffic, and size and condition of the tree.

Owners of locations with the highest rating (90-100) still face a long wait. You can expect to have repairs done for the most severe damage within three years, so you may opt for a quicker solution by having the work done yourself.

How to get reimbursed for fixing tree root damage

If you go this route, you will need to hire a licensed, independent contractor and apply for a tree work permit before starting any work within 50 feet of a city tree.

According to the Parks Department website, tree work permits are typically issued within 45 days and involve an inspection. When you receive your permit, which is valid for 90 days, you will also get guidelines on how to repair the sidewalk without causing damage to the tree. Once repairs are complete, both the tree and the repair work will be inspected.

To get reimbursed, you can file a claim with the City Comptroller’s office within 90 days of doing the work. Here’s a checklist of the documentation you need to file a claim.



Jennifer White Karp

Managing Editor

Jennifer steers Brick Underground’s editorial coverage of New York City residential real estate and writes articles on market trends and strategies for buyers, sellers, and renters. Jennifer’s 15-year career in New York City real estate journalism includes stints as a writer and editor at The Real Deal and its spinoff publication, Luxury Listings NYC.

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