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City Weighs Tougher Snow Clearing Rules

By Dave Lucas


Albany, NY – Multiple winter storms have left mounting snowbanks throughout the Northeast, along with occasional uncleared sidewalk that forces pedestrians out onto the streets, increasing the risk of injury and slowing traffic. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports legislators in New York's Capital City are calling for changes to snow removal ordinances.

If you've ever had to climb over a snowbank at a busy intersection or negotiate a treacherous patch of icy sidewalk - you may have thought that's normal for this part of the country at this time of year. Albany City Councilwoman Leah Golby of Pine Hills says it is not. City law requires Albany homeowners to shovel their walks within 24 hours of the end of a storm. But there's a catch: first someone has to report the impassable stretch to the Department of General Services, which would then issue a warning and if the situation isn't rectified within another 24 hours, DGS will shovel out the walkway and fine the property owner $125. Golby wants that 24-hour grace period eliminated and the law changed to require clean-up within 12 hours of the conclusion of a storm. She'd like to see a structured system of imposing fines, with dollar amounts increasing longer a sidewalk stays unshoveled.

Golby made headlines recently with a drive to alert property owners that they must clear snow build-up from corners at city intersections. Some fire departments routinely dispatch crews to clear snow around fire hydrants, in most communities a responsibility of the property owner. Other municipalities have engaged in their share of winter brainstorming: in Western New York, The South Buffalo District office partnered with youth groups to dispatch shovelers to help elderly and disabled residents clear their sidewalks. Officials in Mamaroneck (Westchester County) are considering charging the tax bills of businesses and residents who routinely fail to clear their sidewalks. For a time in January, the parking authority in downtown Springfield MA, stopped ticketing cars at meters that were difficult to reach because of deep, wide snowbanks.

Police throughout the Northeast warn motorists to take care at any intersections where snowbanks partially block visibility.