How easy is it to get your sidewalk repaired for free?
HOUSTON – Aliyah is 5 years old and her big brother is 7.
They love to spend time outdoors.
"They love to ride their bikes," said their mother, Susi Atri. "My daughter has a little "Frozen" scooter."
In a couple of weeks, Aliyah will start kindergarten and walk with her brother to St. Thomas Episcopal School on the edge of the Meyerland Plaza.
But Atri is concerned about the condition of the sidewalks and the fact that, in some places, there are no sidewalks at all.
"Our home is a new build and we have a pretty sidewalk," said Atri. "Walking down Endicott (Lane), it's still not a good sidewalk. It's very bumpy. It's not very safe to get out onto the streets and walk down."
And there is no sidewalk along Endicott Lane leading up to the school.
"It's getting very difficult during the busy hours to school," said Atri. "A sidewalk would be easy. You don't have to worry, because your kids are safe on the sidewalk."
Their neighbor, Janus Lazaris, is on a crusade to get a sidewalk built for Aliyah and the rest of the children in the neighborhood.
Lazaris got inspired after hearing Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner talk at a community meeting.
"He likes to be known as the mobility mayor," said Lazaris. "He told a story about a young girl named (Sophie) and how she couldn't ride her bike to school because there was no sidewalk."
This tugged at the mayor's heartstrings, and now Sophie has sidewalks leading to her school.
Lazaris has walked from door to door to get hundreds of signatures for a petition. She's taken photos and written letters.
Each year, hundreds of residents ask the city to fix their sidewalks, but many requests don't qualify for consideration.
The city has a Safe Sidewalk Program where a new sidewalk can be built for free, but the program has very specific qualifications.
The location must be within three blocks of an existing school.
If your sidewalk does qualify for repairs, you'll have to wait.
According to the Department of Public Works, "Typically, initial evaluation is 30 days, field evaluation is 90 days, design is 180 days, advertisement and approvals are 60 days and construction is 180 to 365 days."
For Lazaris and Aliyah, a patchwork of solutions might fix their problem.
Manhole covers got in the way of a smooth sidewalk. Lazaris went to Public Works and she got immediate results.
"If the manhole cover was too high, they lowered them down," said Lazaris.
And, after Hurricane Harvey, many residents in the neighborhood have knocked down their homes and are building brand-new houses. Along with that, they're required to put in brand-new sidewalks.
Lazaris' own home flooded. She also has a family and works full time, but she's still committed to bringing safe sidewalks to her community.
"If we are not making our neighborhood, our one little block (a) better place to live, who's going to do it?" said Lazaris.
As for the section leading up to Aliyah's school, it's part of a private school on leased land.
Unlike the sidewalk in Sophie's case, it doesn't qualify for the city's program.
The company that owns the land is Fidelis.
Fidelis released this statement about sidewalks around Meyerland Plaza and sidewalks near St. Thomas Episcopal School:
"Fidelis values its relationship with the Meyerland Community and remains committed to giving its residents a unique shopping experience close to home. The iconic Meyerland Plaza is an important part of the fabric of the community and why we work closely with community leaders as we make updates to bring popular merchants to the neighborhood. At this time, we feel the sidewalks on the west side of Endicott and south side of Beechnut give pedestrians safe access to Meyerland Plaza.
"Following Harvey, Fidelis donated a parking lot to St. Thomas Episcopal Church which allowed them to place temporary buildings so the school could open its doors for the coming year. To keep students safe, it was necessary for the school to construct a fence around the property. The sidewalk issue has persisted long before Fidelis acquired Meyerland Plaza. We will continue to work with neighborhood leaders to find a permanent solution."
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