Schenectady County

Renewed calls for greater use of snow emergencies in Schenectady

Six cars were ticketed on Plymouth Avenue more than a week ago for blocking traffic due to snow, pro
Schenectady police ticketed cars on Plymouth Avenue recently after an ambulance could not get down the street to respond to a call due to snow and the parked cars.
Schenectady police ticketed cars on Plymouth Avenue recently after an ambulance could not get down the street to respond to a call due to snow and the parked cars.

Six cars were ticketed on Plymouth Avenue more than a week ago for blocking traffic due to snow, prompting renewed calls to declare snow emergencies in the city of Schenectady.

Heather Brown, who lives on Plymouth Avenue, said her car was one that received a parking ticket for blocking traffic. She said she believes the ticket shouldn’t have been issued because of the piles of snow on the sides of the street. Plymouth is a two-way street, with parking on both sides.

“Every car around my house on Plymouth Avenue was ticketed because an emergency vehicle could not get through in an emergency,” she said. “There was no snow emergency declared so there were snowbanks. I cleaned up as much as I can. You can’t charge someone for something they didn’t do.”

Schenectady police Lt. Todd Stickney said the tickets were issued late Thursday, Feb. 19, during a patrol officer’s midnight shift. He said the officer attempted to get people to move their vehicles by making phone calls and knocking on doors.

“With the snowbanks, there was a call to our dispatch center and that’s how our officer got sent out there,” Stickney said. “He was able to get some vehicles moved and the ones that he couldn’t get moved got tickets.”

The situation on Plymouth is not uncommon as the city works to clear streets after a snowstorm. This winter there were a handful of 6- to 12-inch storms causing snow to pile up on the sides of city streets and sidewalks.

City Councilman Vince Riggi said Mayor Gary McCarthy should declare snow emergencies to combat situations like the one on Plymouth Avenue.

A snow emergency would require alternate-side-of-the-street parking, with 24 hours on one side, then 24 hours on the other, which would have crews out plowing for 48 hours.

“If the mayor calls a snow emergency then this wouldn’t be an issue,” Riggi said. “We need some rules in place. I think Heather would have a case. Many streets are too narrow to get a vehicle down there. This all falls on the administration. It’s incumbent on the mayor to make sure our streets are passable.”

McCarthy has not declared a snow emergency since he took office nearly four years ago. He said this year — with snowfalls of less than 20 inches — snow emergencies wouldn’t have gotten all the snow removed.

The process of snow removal in the city is to plow priority streets, followed by secondary streets. At lower levels, crews and equipment are able to handle snow removal as normal, McCarthy said.

“We didn’t have any huge storms over 20 inches,” he said. “We had a number of 8- to 12-inch storms. It was just the long and consistent below freezing temperatures — why none of it has melted. A lot of times the neighborhoods or residents make it easier by moving their cars to get the plows through. If they don’t, it creates more inconvenience.”

Riggi said universal parking regulations, such as alternate-side-of-the-street parking during winter, would help crews remove snow.

Riggi stressed that snow removal is about more than just traffic problems — it’s also a public safety issue. If an emergency vehicle couldn’t get down Plymouth Avenue, someone in need could have been left unattended.

“The mayor should come up with a plan that is going to work,” Riggi said. “But it’s about saving money. That’s what McCarthy said when I asked him. This is a public safety issue. We are without fire and medical in Bellevue. That’s not right.”

In a Facebook post last week, The Daily Gazette asked readers how they would rate snow removal from local roads this winter. A majority of the comments were negative.

“The sidewalks in front of Key Bank and Mexican Radio are horrible,” said Mike Belli.

“They could have done a much better job on Parkwood Blvd. People couldn’t park because they decided not to do the sides of the road. Not a good winter for Schenectady plowing,” said Mark Goldman.

“With additional traffic coming to Schenectady with the advent of a casino and construction and other side business, Schenectady needs to implement snow emergencies after snowstorms to keep city streets clear from curb to curb,” said Paul O’Brien.

The Facebook post received a couple of positive comments about snow removal in the city.

“Excellent. These guys have been plowing like crazy this winter. Thanks to them,” said Susan Jakubowski Smith.

“Snow removal was great, but the roads are horrible. The roads are in dire need of repair,” said Janis L. Stone Gaunay.

The Daily Gazette also conducted a poll last week asking readers the same question about snow removal. Of 283 votes, 44 percent of responders said they believe crews have been doing a great job, 21 percent said they’ve been OK, but not great, and 22 percent said terrible.

McCarthy said he hopes the weather will cooperate and bring a couple of warm days to help melt the snow.

“Spring will be here shortly,” he said. “If we get two days that are 40 degrees, you will see a dramatic shift in the roadways.”

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