By Conor Greene
After the snow finally stopped falling following last week’s blizzard, Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a stern warning to property owners: start shoveling, or risk being fined.
However, in the aftermath of last week’s storm, which dumped up to 15 inches of snow on the city, many municipal-owned walkways and properties throughout Queens were not cleared, even as another storm arrived Tuesday. In light of that, the Juniper Park Civic Association is calling on the mayor “to get his house in order before threatening home and business owners” with fines.
“The mayor loves to preach but this is a good example of how out of touch with reality he really is,” said civic President Robert Holden, who on Friday photographed about a dozen city-owned properties around the Middle Village, Maspeth and Elmhurst area that remained snow and ice covered, more than a day after the storm ended.
“I’m sure that public areas in Manhattan are cleared but the mayor should try getting into his SUV and drive through Queens and the other boroughs,” continued Holden. “Most city-owned sidewalks in our neighborhood are never cleared of snow.” He stressed that homeowners who don’t shovel should be fined, but thinks the city should have its properties in order before issuing summonses to residents.
The city’s lack of snow removal was especially insulting in light of the mayor’s warning that property owners would be fined if they failed to clear sidewalks – a warning that was subsequently followed by ticket blitzes in several neighborhoods. “It’s reasonably warm, so the shoveling should be easy,” Bloomberg said during a press conference last Thursday while issuing the warning.
According to city laws, snow must be cleared from sidewalks within four hours after the snow has stopped falling or by 11 a.m. if the snow stopped falling after 9 p.m. the night before. The fine for not doing so starts at $100, and Sanitation officers reportedly began issuing tickets in some neighborhoods as soon as the grace period ended.
Residents who are unable to remove hard or frozen snow can spread sand or other material to provide traction within the same time window to avoid a fine. However, the JPCA urges residents to avoid piling snow from sidewalks on public streets or around fire hydrants.
Holden said the JPCA has received numerous phone calls from residents - many elderly - who say they have been unable to get around the neighborhood because of sidewalks and pedestrian overpasses that are either snow covered, or blocked by a mound of cleared snow. In one case, a civic member in her early 70’s said she has been unable to reach her local bus stop and get to work because of huge piles of snow blocking pedestrian areas.
Frustrated that the city is seemingly above the law, the JPCA designed a symbolic “NYC Citizen’s Notice of Violation” form as a way for residents to voice their frustration with the city as they encounter treacherous areas while traveling around the neighborhood. Holden wants this effort to also expand to other violations city workers commit on a routine basis, such as the workers he witnessed parking in a bus lane while they ran into a deli to buy bagels, or city cars that are routinely parked in front of fire hydrants.
“Why is the mayor above the law? He turns a deaf ear towards Queens and doesn’t get out of Manhattan,” said Holden of Bloomberg. “You walk around Manhattan, and there is no snow downtown or in Midtown… Pedestrian safety is not a priority, and seniors and children are not a priority with this mayor. We have no recourse – this at least is a record of complaints, even if it is symbolic,” he said of the civic’s Notice of Violations.
“The mayor has some nerve threatening homeowners – the vast majority of who are shoveling,” added Holden, pointing to a path near the Long Island Expressway in Maspeth. “This is a week now, and is the mayor’s responsibility” he said of the icy walkway. “What we’re saying to residents is, send a copy [of the symbolic ticket] to the mayor to make sure he knows about it.”
The mayor’s office did not respond to a message seeking comment.