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Stumped: Cement Signpost Stump is Part of Sidewalk under NYC Administrative § 7-210

June 29, 2017

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In a city as crowded and fast paced as New York, signs and signposts are everywhere, advising of parking, towing zones, traffic, construction, and other realities of urban life.   The signs are installed by various City and quasi-City agencies such as the Department of Transportation and Transit Authority.  Figuring out what exactly the signs mean is often a difficult task.    Given the City’s ever changing landscape and development signs are routinely erected, dismantled, and moved.  Who is responsible for remnant area around sign, in a trip and fall setting – the City or the abutting property owner?
In <em><a href="">Bronfman v East Midtown Plaza Hous. Co., Inc.</a>,</em> 2017 NY Slip Op 05189, the First Department affirmed that the abutting property owner had a duty to maintain not only the sidewalk itself, but also the cement mound around the stump of signpost on a sidewalk located in a pedestrian plaza pursuant to Administrative Code of the City of New York § 7-210.
Plaintiff tripped and fell upon a cement mound around the stump of a signpost, on a sidewalk located in a pedestrian plaza that was a sidewalk easement granted to the City for the benefit of pedestrians. Defendant, the owner and operator of premises adjacent to the defective sidewalk, asserted that the stump was the remnant of a sign that the City had installed.  The Appellate Division ruled that the motion court correctly denied defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, because as abutting property owner, the defendant had a duty to maintain the sidewalk pursuant to Administrative Code of the City of New York § 7-210. Even assuming that the signpost belonged to the City, and was therefore not part of the "sidewalk" for purposes of the statute (<em><u>Smith v 125th St. Gateway Ventures, LLC</u></em><u>, 75 AD3d 425</u>, 425 [1st Dept. 2010]), defendant still had a duty under the statute to maintain the sidewalk around the signpost stump.
This case illuminates the expansive scope of the abutting property owner’s duty under the city “Sidewalk Law.”  While the City may have installed the sign, signpost, and cement stump structure, whatever remains following the signposts removal is the property owner’s responsibility.  Thanks to Justin Pomerantz for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.

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