There is a class of vacant building that remains hidden in Schenectady throughout most of the year.
They’re not boarded up, the lawns are cut often enough to be acceptable and they don’t look like they’re uninhabited.
But as soon it snows, they stand out with unshoveled sidewalks and not a single footprint heading up the steps.
A foot of snow fell overnight Saturday, and by Monday, almost every vacant house in Schenectady was surrounded by a moat of untouched snow.
The group consists of hundreds of houses taken by the city in foreclosure last year; the many unoccupied houses about to be taken in the next round of foreclosures; and others where landlords, tenants and owners have simply walked away.
Mayor Gary McCarthy said city workers will start shoveling out those sidewalks today — three days after the storm.
“We try to maintain all the ones the city has,” he said.
But workers couldn’t get to them Monday, because they were shoveling out intersections, he said.
The curb-cuts where sidewalk meets street were generally clogged throughout the city, he said. In other cases, residents threw more snow into those areas as they shoveled out their own sidewalks.
“People are pushing snow into the roadway and blocking intersections,” McCarthy said.
He urged residents to do more than simply dig out their cars. He advised them to move snow off the curb, onto their lawns, to make room for the rest of the winter’s storms. He also advised them to dig out the entire width of their sidewalks — rather than one shovel length — and to dig out entire driveways rather than just around their car.
“It’s a lot easier if people will do a little maintenance now so you build up a capacity for the future,” he said. “It has the potential to be a long winter. We could have snow on the ground until March.”
He also asked residents to remove at least one shovel-full of snow from each side of the nearest fire hydrant so that firefighters can find them and hook hoses to them without first digging them out.
“It’s very simple: one shovel on each side of a fire hydrant,” he said.
He’s not planning to ticket people who don’t shovel their sidewalks — at least, not yet.
“We’re trying to approach things with a common-sense approach,” he said, explaining that he thinks people need more time to adjust to the realities of snow removal.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a foot or more of snow,” he said.