Who’s Responsible for Sidewalk Repair in NYC?

New York is the most populous city in the USA with more than 8.8 million residents living in it. Fulfilling the transportation needs of such a huge population is not an easy task. To counter this problem the city is equipped with a robust and efficient system of subways and busses that operate 24/7 to keep the city moving. But that’s not all, another crucial component of NYC’s transport infrastructure that is often overlooked is the sidewalks. Every day, millions of pedestrians use these sidewalks to safely reach their destination. 

The city is filled with over 12 million miles of sidewalks, signifying their pivotal role in public transportation. However, handling and maintaining such a vast network of sidewalks is a gargantuan task. These sidewalks are exposed to extreme pedestrian load daily, causing wear and tear and frequent damage to the sidewalks.

When it comes to sidewalk repairs, the most confusing query is “Who is responsible for the repair, the state government or the property owners?” The response could vary according to the state in which you reside.

Property Owner Responsibility

According to Department of Transportation (DOT) NYC rules and regulations the property owners are responsible for maintaining sidewalks adjacent to their properties. This includes repairing damages, and removal of snow, ice, debris, and anything that can risk pedestrian safety.

Section 19-152 of the New York City administrative code clearly mandates that maintaining, repairing, and installing new sidewalks is the responsibility of the property owner.

What Repairs Does This Include?

According to DOT NYC, property owners are responsible for fixing damages such as

1.    Uneven Surfaces

Sidewalks with a vertical distance of more than ½ inch are classified as uneven and can result in trip hazards.

2.    Cracks

Cracks are caused due to a variety of reasons including excessive loading, temperature fluctuation, and soil settlement. Thin hairline cracks can be neglected, however thick cracks indicate structural damage and should be repaired quickly.

  • Improper Drainage

Sidewalks with disturbed slopes are prone to drainage issues. Water tends to accumulate on the surface of the sidewalks which can result in the slipping of pedestrians.

4.    Sunken Slabs

This condition occurs when the soil beneath the sidewalk is expansive and can be washed away easily. This results in a void beneath the sidewalk which results in sinking.

5.    Root Damages

Trees near sidewalks can be a cause of concern. As trees mature, their roots grow and extend in search of water and can even reach the sidewalk surface. This can result in the cracking or heaving of the sidewalk surface. These can result in uneven sidewalk surfaces that make pedestrians prone to trip hazards.


There are two main cases where the DOT NYC is responsible for repairing the sidewalks instead of the property owners. These two cases are

1.    Damage Caused by City Trees

In case the damage is caused by city-owned trees, the property owner is exempted from repairing the sidewalks. The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation is responsible for repairing the sidewalks in such a scenario. Property owners can file a claim with the controller’s office if they think that the damage is caused due to city-owned trees.

2.    Sidewalks On City Owned Properties

Sidewalks on public property, like those in front of municipal buildings, traffic islands, and medians, are maintained by the DOT. The owners of the properties next to these walkways would not be accountable for them.

Reporting Sidewalk Damage

In NYC, literally anyone can report sidewalk damage! There are no restrictions on who can report – whether you’re a resident, visitor, or just someone who cares about safe streets, you can take action. This system empowers everyone to contribute to maintaining safe pedestrian walkways throughout the city. All you have to do is dial 311 on your phone and report the damage to DOT NYC. However, you must have the following information before reporting the damage

  • The specific location of the damaged sidewalk
  • Type of damage

Alternatively, you can also report the damage online using the NYC 311 app.

Benefits of Maintaining Sidewalks

Maintaining your sidewalks offers you a wide range of benefits including

1.    Pedestrian Safety

A properly maintained sidewalk significantly reduces the occurrences of trips and falls. Therefore, allowing pedestrians to reach their destination safely. Prompt reporting also safeguards property owners from DOT fines, penalties, and even lawsuits if a pedestrian gets injured due to unreported damage.

2.    Improved Property Value

A properly maintained sidewalk can significantly bolster the market value of your property. A properly maintained sidewalk imparts a fresh look to the exterior of your property. Imparting a good impression on your neighbors or customers.

3.    Avoiding Fines from NYC DOT for Violations

Damage free sidewalks act as a protective shield for owners, protecting them from DOT fines and penalties.


To summarize, the responsibility of fixing New York sidewalks lies upon the property owner. There are only a few cases, which are described above, in which the property owner is exempted from the repair. In case of a sidewalk violation, the property owner must hire a DOT-licensed sidewalk contractor for DOT-compliant repair services.

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