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Syracuse property owners must clear snowy sidewalks, but there’s no way to enforce it

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh (right) with DPW Commissioner Jeremy Robinson.

Parts of central New York received a significant amount of snow over the weekend. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the city is stepping up its efforts to plow streets and clear sidewalks after receiving complaints from residents in recent weeks.

Walsh said it is the responsibility of property owners to clear their sidewalk of snow within 24 hours of a snow event. But currently there is no way for the city to enforce that requirement.

“The challenge right now is there is no penalty," Walsh said. "That was removed by the council back in the 1960s. That’s something that we have to look at again. We have to look at a fee, but I think we have to look beyond that to see if there is a more comprehensive way to approach it, that involves the city."

He said that could mean reinstituting fines or applying a special assessment or fee on property owners.

"We can't do it alone," Walsh said. "The city can't do it alone. We need help from the citizens to do their part.”

A woman who was walking in the street was killed in a hit-and-run accident last week but it is unclear if that was because the sidewalks were inaccessible.

“I think that was certainly a sobering reminder to all of us, how high the stakes are here to making sure our sidewalks and streets are clear,” Walsh said.

Council President Helen Hudson said residents should also help their elderly and disabled neighbors.

"If you know you have a sick person or shut-in living next door to you, take a few minutes, go over, knock their snow off the sidewalk, and let's start building our communities and building ourself as a city," Hudson said.

Department of Public Works supervisors and Syracuse police are issuing tickets and towing vehicles parked illegally and ticketing commercial plow operators that pile up snow that blocks sidewalks.

Syracuse’s Innovation Team will host a “Snow Safety Summit” in February to hear what residents think is the best way to keep sidewalks safe.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.