The city encourages people to call 311 to report non-emergency situations (broken traffic lights) or to ask questions (what's that noise). But this anecdote from the State Island Advance's Newslog shows that being helpful can be hard.
When 77-year-old Agnes Burney called 311 to report that a contractor had "mowed their trucks over a fire hydrant in front of her South Beach residence and cracked the concrete slab around it," the city did inspect the situation. But the city socked the retired cleaning woman with a bill to fix the crack and install a sidewalk - $4,000! It turns out that in 2003, the city passed a law making it a homeowner responsibility to "build and maintain concrete sidewalks" (Burney purchased her sidewalk-less home in 1994).
There is somewhat of a happy/decent ending: S.I. Borough Transportation Commissioner Tom Curitore explained that the sidewalk did not need to be installed immediately (though it does have to happen).
If Mrs. Burney has the city put in the sidewalk, he explained, she could put it on the never-never: There would be a payoff plan, and failing that, the bill would take the form of a lien against the property that could be paid off upon future sale of the home.
Here's the DOT's FAQ on sidewalks; the first question is "Who is responsible for maintaining sidewalks?"
Photograph by mike.mostransky on Flickr