Bensonhurst shop owner faces $30,000 fine for sidewalk damage he blames on MTA

Businessman cracking up over fee city demands to fix sidewalk damage

Brooklyn Daily
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A Bensonhurst auto shop owner says the Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority are taking him for a ride.

The city is forcing Louis Gellman, owner of Hilna Discount Tires at the corner of 86th Street and Stillwell Avenue, to cough up $30,000 to replace the fractured sidewalk in front of his business — pavement he claims the MTA destroyed.

The Department of Transportation plans to replace the concrete on July 1 and stick Gellman with the bill.

But, the shop owner claims the sidewalk broke as a result of years of Transit subcontractors parking vehicles on the curb while working on the overhead elevated train, and of tremors traveling down the trestle support beams from the notoriously noisy brakes on the D train — and he provided photographs to prove it!

“It’s the most insane thing I ever heard of,” said Gellman. “They leave their trucks on the sidewalk, the poles are vibrating all the time, and you’ve got veins coming out on the sidewalk.”

Gellman sent us images of men in orange vests working on the train from lifts parked on the slab, and cracks radiating away from the feet of the elevated line pillars.

But the Department of Transportation said it doesn’t care how the sidewalk got damaged — only that it needs to be replaced and that city law obligates Gellman to pay for it. A city spokesman did say, however, that Gellman could request reimbursement from the MTA — which the tire dealer did, to no avail.

The transit authority said it had tested noise levels from the train brakes and found them to be a mere 65 decibels — about as loud as an air conditioner, and well within the agency’s sound limits.

The MTA also said it did not know who the men in Gellman’s photos are or what they were doing, claiming that the agency has not performed work in the area for some time — though it raised the possibility that they were making electrical repairs.

“We find no evidence that New York City Transit was working at that location when the damage occurred,” said spokesman Charles Seaton.

But an independent analysis by renowned Courier Life columnist Carmine Santa Maria recorded the train noise at Gellman’s corner at an astounding 98 decibels — almost as loud as a jet flying overhead. And a study by traffic reform group Transportation Alternatives determined that parking even lightweight vehicles like police three-wheelers on the sidewalk can harm the pavement — let alone much heavier construction lifts.

Gellman said he was beginning to crack under the city’s pressure.

“I’ve got all these agencies telling me, ‘it’s not our problem, you own the property,’ ” the small businessman said. “I’m trying to stop this and can’t get anyone to help me.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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