New York City residents and business owners are required to clear their sidewalks after snow storms or face heavy fines from city authorities. But city agencies have failed to clear many public sidewalks and those abutting government property, suggesting a double standard that puts pedestrians at risk.
With 48 inches of snow falling over the course of 22 days since January 1, deadbeat landlords who’ve failed to shovel paths have become a reviled caricature in New York City. Currently, they could face fines of $150, and a local City Council member has introduced new legislation that would direct city workers to clear private sidewalks and forward the bill to the property owner.
But while city workers may one day be deployed to clear private sidewalks, Sheepshead Bites has found a number of government-owned sidewalks that those same city workers have failed to clear.
Among the worst spots this publication surveyed yesterday are the underpasses of the B/Q Brighton line, all located between East 15th Street and East 16th Street. From Sheepshead Bay Road to Kings Highway, not one of the half dozen underpasses without a subway station had clear paths shoveled on both sides of the street, and even some of those with a subway station were left uncleared. In most locations, the northern side of the street was partially shoveled, while the southern side remained untouched.
Perhaps the most stark example of neglect was the Avenue Y underpass. A relatively high-trafficked sidewalk given the proximity of nearby Stop & Shop and other major businesses, a thick sheet of ice covered the length of the sidewalk. On the corner is an MTA substation, which was clear when we revisited it this morning. But, around the corner, on East 15th Street between Avenue Y and Avenue Z, the block-long MTA-owned easement had entirely escaped the shovel’s attention.
Apparently, despite its ownership, the MTA is not responsible for clearing snow from these properties.
“The MTA is responsible for cleaning three feet from the entrance of a subway station,” said MTA spokesperson Judy Glave. “Any other city street is the city’s responsibility.”
According to Theresa Scavo, the chairperson of Community Board 15 whose borders include all of the locations noted in this article, clearing snow from city sidewalks is to be coordinated by both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Sanitation.
That’s a fact Scavo only recently found out when she held a meeting with representatives of each agency to help address the same problem on another set of city-owned properties – pedestrian overpasses spanning the Belt Parkway.
“East 12th Street, Coney Island Avenue. These overpasses, in the first snowstorm, there were kids walking to school and they were walking on ice. They were going to get hurt,” she said.
The overpasses are the subject of legislation introduced last March by Councilman David Greenfield, who also proposed the latest bill tasking city workers with clearing private property. Greenfield’s office said they will soon reintroduce the former legislation, which directs the city to create a database of more than 100 city-owned pedestrian overpasses, and state the agency responsible for removing snow.
Greenfield said when he first proposed the bill that these areas go uncleared because of bureaucratic confusion over responsibility.
“You get the blame game,” Greenfield said. “Every agency blames a different agency.”
Regardless of which agency is responsible, it’s not being done and that creates a clear double standard that penalizes residents while giving a pass to city agencies, according to Scavo.
“If you’re responsible, it should be cleaned within four hours, just like me. I’m responsible to clean in front of my home, and I believe everyone should be held to the same rule,” she said. “Four hours, and they should be out there cleaning.”
The Department of Sanitation and the Department of Transportation did not return requests for comment on this story.
Photos and additional reporting by Eric Jankiewicz.
Have you noticed city- or state-owned property that has not been cleared during the recent snow storms? Let us know in the comments!