SCHENECTADY — The city is continuing to dig out from a storm that dumped nearly two feet of snow across the region.
But following the biggest local snowstorm since 1993, the city’s sidewalk snow-clearing policy is drawing mixed reviews from residents.
Schenectady property owners are required to clear the sidewalks and fire hydrants in front of their parcels within 24 hours of final snowfall. The city can cite property owners who fail to clear their sidewalks. But some people think the city should clear sidewalks.
Some neighborhoods, including the Stockade and downtown, appeared to be generally walkable on Tuesday morning.
But other areas were hit-or-miss, resulting in scores of people walking in the streets.
Louis Donate trudged down Fairview Avenue in the city’s Bellevue neighborhood with plastic shopping bags in tow.
“It doesn’t bother us,” he said.
Neighbors tend to help each other out during heavy snowfall, he said.
“But [clearing sidewalks] would help people out.”
Nearby, Dawn Lazzaro took her third pass in two days at the sidewalk with a snowblower and appeared to be resigned.
“We gotta do it,” she said. “It would be nice if the city did it. Isn’t that what our taxes are for?”
Lazzaro did have a problem, however, clearing the snow buildup shoved into her driveway from plows, which can be particularly heavy at intersections.
At its deepest, the snow in front of her house was hip-deep.
Sidewalks downtown were generally clear on Tuesday from State Street to Veeder Avenue, where a couple labored to lift a baby carriage over a snowbank. Downtown sidewalks are cleared by crews that work for the downtown business association.
On Glenwood Boulevard, Neil Perreira Jr. said he didn’t have a problem with clearing his sidewalk, but conceded the sick or elderly may require additional assistance than simply neighbors helping neighbors (which he added he was happy to do).
“Not everyone is capable,” Perreira said.
The city should find a way to track which streets or neighborhoods need extra attention, he said, and deploy resources accordingly.
Others expressed a more dim outlook.
“It’s trashy,” said Darren Jessie, who lives in Hamilton Hill, but didn’t want his street identified. “That’s what you got a Highway Department for.”
Jessie fretted about elderly residents and litigation from people slipping and falling.
He relocated from Hempstead, Long Island, which has a similar sidewalk policy, but levies strict fines for offenders.
Jameera McCarty labored to free her car before going to work.
The Albany Street resident, who lives near Crosstown Connection, said she was upset at not only having to clear her sidewalk, but also being plowed-in.
“Now we have to shovel ourselves out,” she said. “This is just crazy.”
Shirley Manning said she watched a U-Haul labor to become unstuck near University Place, which hadn't been plowed to her satisfaction.
“It’s a big mish-mash,” Manning said. “People can’t even walk — they haven’t done anything here as usual.”
Ned Scott, who lives on Glenwood Boulevard, wasn't concerned about the sidewalk policy and said the city should prioritize clearing the roads.
“Everyone should at least make one pass-through,” he said of their sidewalks.
A key dynamic to whether sidewalks are cleared, Scott said, is whether homes are owner-occupied or rental units.
The former, he said, are more likely to keep their properties maintained.
Glenwood Boulevard was in rough shape on Tuesday morning with tightly-packed snow continuing to resemble cross-country ski trails in places.
Scott noted the street is a main thoroughfare transporting patients to Ellis Hospital.
But unlike portions of Nott and McClellan streets and Brandywine Avenue, Glenwood is not a “priority street,” a city designation which requires motorists to remove their vehicles following three inches of snow until the road is plowed “curb to curb.”
A three-inch snowfall, however, does trigger a 24-hour alternative parking plan on that stretch of Glenwood so the city can plow, said Commissioner of General Services Paul Lafond.
Like other officials, Lafond acknowledged even the best-laid plans can be thwarted by illegally-parked vehicles.
At least 75 vehicles had been towed by mid-day Tuesday, according to city police.
And some residents in outlying areas, including the dead-end Greeley Street in Woodlawn and a partially completed housing development off Van Vranken Avenue, said they had to call City Hall to get service.
Mayor Gary McCarthy acknowledged on Monday what he said were “less than optimal” plowing results on the city’s side streets and renewed those concerns again on Tuesday.
Plowing crews continued to clear snow throughout the day and evening.
“We’re generally in pretty good shape,” McCarthy said.
The mayor said he’s never declared a snow emergency, citing staffing issues that would hamper 24-hour plow crews.
Residents who don’t clear their sidewalks could ultimately be served by city police with a violation.
McCarthy said the city will reserve that right for public safety issues.
“We’ll deal with it on a case-by-case basis,” McCarthy said. “We try to use common sense in codes. We want to show a little bit of latitude with a storm of this magnitude.”
Albany, Amsterdam, Saratoga Springs and Troy have similar policies, albeit with different timelines for snow removal.
Correction 7:42a.m. Wednesday: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Glenwood Boulevard as Glenwood Avenue.