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You may sometimes grab your mail from your mailbox and just sit on the front steps to look through it? Or a neighbor drops by and you sit on the front steps coming off of your porch to have a chat? Now, imagine being told by the city that you have to pay for that privilege?

That’s exactly what’s happening in a Brooklyn, New York neighborhood, and the homeowners are not happy. Around three dozen property owners in Boerum Hill say they are being charged more than a thousand dollars a year to use the steps leading to their front doors.  How, you ask, does such a thing happen? Some of these homes are worth more than $2-million, and still residents have to shell out the extra charge apparently because of a so-called side deal between the developer and the city of Brooklyn. Some are alleging that the deal is illegal.

The “side” deal allowed the builder to construct the homes’ six-foot stairways linking the properties with the sidewalk. But the staircases are the extra for which the city is now charging the homeowners in the form of a yearly tax.

So, in exchange for allowing the builder to build the staircases, the city receives a special annual tax, which means residents are renting the space where their steps and porch are located.

An attorney representing the homeowners sued the city stating that such special deals are meant to be used for temporary structures such as scaffolding, flagpoles and awnings. He says the entire deal is inconceivable.

The city maintains that the residents don’t have a case because the details of the deal were in their buyers’ contracts. A Manhattan judge last week sided with the city stating that the city acted within its discretion.

The homeowners are now deciding whether they will appeal the ruling.

What do you think?  Do the homeowners have a legal case?

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