By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Now here’s another report of a case where city dwellers are being pressured to create a homeowners’ association where none currently exists.
The location is a small neighborhood in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. The roads are narrow and the homes are close together. The homes were built decades ago as vacation bungalows, and supplied with two sanitary sewer lines.
See the Google Maps satellite image of the neighborhood above.
Now the homes in the working class neighborhood are inhabited year round. They sustained significant damage in Superstorm Sandy in 2012, including irreparable damage to their sewer lines.
The complication: although the clogged sewer lines feed into public waste lines, the portion within this small enclave of homes are private lines. Homeowners are expected to pay for replacement of private sewer lines.
Here’s the history:
Wasting away: City won’t fix private sewer damaged by Sandy
A system of private sewer lines beneath a Sheepshead Bay block has been broken and clogged with sand since superstorm Sandy, and the city refuses to help, leaving neighbors to deal with human waste overflowing onto their property.
Residents of the block say the city is neglecting what could be a potential health hazard.
“Every time it rains this manhole overflows and s— seeps out all over the court,” said Richard Bowers, who lives right next to a manhole from the private sewer line that his house is not connected to. “I can’t keep my windows open.”
A Build It Back spokesman said that such private sewer lines were installed decades ago when many coastal properties were vacation bungalows, and were not designed for the kind of daily use they are receiving now.
Clearly, this is a risk to public health, and warrants a public response.
So now the City’s Build It Back program is finally willing to replace the sewer lines – but only if the property owners agree to create a homeowners association to pay for and fund future maintenance.
However, many homeowners do not like that idea.
Neighborhood divided: Locals at odds over proposed homeowners association
Residents of Sheepshead Bay’s courts are split whether to form a homeowners association to pay for needed repairs to their private streets. The city’s Sandy-recovery program Build It Back is offering to fix up their broken sewers — which homeowners are actually responsible for maintaining — if they agree to get organized and put money away for future maintenance. But some say they’ve been getting along okay for years, and the association will just be another tax.
“If they’re not charging the rest of the world for this, don’t come after us. It’s wrong, it’s really wrong,” said Michael Rodriguez of Stanton Road. “It’s just an output of the city to have us take care of things on our own, which we’ve been doing anyway.”
Mr. Rodriguez makes an excellent point!
After all, it was the City that approved this substandard private sewer system decades ago, never anticipating the growth of Brooklyn or considering how a handful of property owners would ever be able to afford to replace sewer lines. That’s the ultimate root of the problem!
If owners cannot afford to fix the problem now, how will creating an HOA help them in the future? Chances are very high that owners would not set aside enough money to pay for a future private replacement.
And besides, why create another layer of bureaucratic governance, along with all the usual HOA baggage? Do owners want to serve as volunteer board members? Set an annual budget and pay for annual audits? Create restrictions and rules and then enforce them upon their neighbors?
Why should 60% of homeowners be able to force the other 40% to give up their private property rights and submit to the whims or tyranny of an HOA board?
And most importantly: why can’t the city simply assess these property owners to cover the cost of adding the two common waste lines to the public sewer system? That way, they can pay over several years on their property tax bills.
It seems to be a simple solution. But instead the City wants to impose additional costs and burdens on homeowners.