Of ice and men: Can the police clear their own sidewalks?February 13, 2014 • By The Villager
BY SARAH FERGUSON | Now is the winter of our discontent. The onslaught of snow — once a delight — has become an endless slog of winter storms and polar vortexes. And the ice — what’s up with all the ice?
Some streets and sidewalks resemble bobsled courses due to all the thaw and refreeze. Emergency room visits for slip and falls are up 300 percent. I should know. Two weeks ago, I wiped out on a treacherous set of stairs in Tompkins Square Park that were coated in black ice. I flipped up into the air like an Olympic snowboarder, then slammed down on my ass, shrieking in pain and rage as passersby stared at me like a madwoman.
The X-ray revealed a possible fracture in my tailbone, but since you can’t put a cast on your butt, I hobbled out of Beth Israel with a scrip for painkillers — and a wary eye for danger lurking beneath the gray snow piled up at crosswalks.
Since then, I’ve developed profound sympathy for elderly and disabled folks trying to navigate our slicked-up streets. Which is why I figure it’s time to call out people who don’t shovel their sidewalks in a timely fashion.
Starting with the Housing Police at the P.S.A. 4 stationhouse at 130 Avenue C. Check out these photos I shot last Thursday, after another snowstorm had subsided into deep freeze.
If Mayor de Blasio can get out and shovel the walk in front of his Brooklyn home, then why can’t the NYCHA cops in Alphabet City do their part?
While the sidewalk on Avenue C in front of P.S.A. 4 is generally clear, the sidewalks that run along the cops’ parking garage on E. Ninth and E. Eighth Sts. between Avenues C and D are rarely if ever shoveled.
Since I moved to E. Ninth four years ago, I’ve never seen the NYCHA cops shovel on this block. Neighbors who’ve lived on this street far longer say they can’t recall the cops shoveling since the Avenue C stationhouse was built more than 10 years ago.
“I don’t ever remember it being shoveled,” says Bill Wonder, an architectural model maker who has lived on E. Ninth for the past 20 years.
“It’s ridiculous. Don’t they have any able-bodied men who can shovel?”
When I called the P.S.A 4 stationhouse to complain, the first officer I reached seemed unaware the Ninth St. side was even housing police property. He first tried to say that side of the street was unshoveled because it was a “construction site,” then dropped the phone to “go check.”
I called back and got another officer, who told me, “Yeah, we have to shovel. They probably just forgot.”
Worse, there is always a squad car or some other police vehicle parked in the driveway on the E. Ninth St. side, meaning pedestrians must walk into the street to get by.
Last week, that meant climbing over an obstacle course of frozen snow and ice pushed there by the plows. I watched several people climb over the snow and just walk down the middle of the street — because the opposite sidewalk, adjacent to a community garden, had not been shoveled or salted either.
While community gardeners are also mandated to clear sidewalks, unlike the police, gardeners don’t get paid for their work.
Locals here have grown used to this. Another neighbor told me that the cops at P.S.A. 4 don’t shovel because it’s not part of their job description. Instead, they leave it to a maintenance worker, who is already maxed-out with other tasks. Whether this is true, I can’t say. The N.Y.P.D. public affairs office did not respond to my requests for comment.
But the day before, I watched with envy as a NYCHA worker driving a nifty new John Deere tractor outfitted with a mini-snowplow swiftly cleared the sidewalks in front of a block of NYCHA-run housing on Avenue C.
So why can’t the NYCHA tractor come plow the sidewalks in front of the NYCHA precinct house? Yeah, I know, that’s not how bureaucracies work.
Anyway, shortly after I called P.S.A. 4, I returned to find the sidewalk freshly shoveled and salted — except for the iced-up area that you have to walk through to get around the squad car and impounded pickup truck that are blocking the sidewalk. Apparently, they think we can leap over this.
Seems like the city is trying to get a handle on the ice, however. Call 311 and there’s now a separate prompt to report snow and icy conditions. If you go online, there’s even an interactive 311 map showing which neighborhoods are getting the most complaints.
Not sure how accurate it is, since there was no record of the report I made on Sunday about the impromptu ice rinks that had cropped up inside the Tompkins Square Park playground and surrounding pathways.
Nor did I see any complaints for the never-shoveled sidewalk outside the old P.S. 64 school building at 605 E. Ninth St. and Avenue B. (It’s an icy mess, a good bet for falls, if anyone were looking to slip and cash in.)
Postscript: Although the N.Y.P.D. public affairs office did not respond to my request for comment, since I e-mailed them about the conditions outside P.S.A. 4, the sidewalks and curb cuts have been fully cleared and the cars obstructing the sidewalk on Ninth St. were moved — but only for a day. The next day the cars were back on the sidewalk.