Winter has been especially tough for pedestrians.
Early last week we visited two locations -- in Shirley and Wantagh -- where bus stops are difficult if not impossible to reach. Sidewalks are so inaccessible that it's necessary to walk in the road.
Why do such sites remain snowed in? The old-fashioned term "communication gap" comes to mind.
Town codes in both Brookhaven and Hempstead require property owners to clear sidewalks. But that came as a surprise to two companies that own or manage sites that border those sidewalks.
First stop, Montauk Highway in Shirley, where a handful of people waited on frozen slush for a Suffolk County Transit bus. They had negotiated their way through banks of packed snow at the edge of the Pathmark shopping center parking lot, then climbed up onto a frozen ledge before descending a slippery slope. For those carrying packages, it was quite a balancing act.
One bus rider, Ed Morrison, told us that a woman had slipped and fallen as a bus was approaching a few days earlier. "Is there anyone who can shovel the bus stops before someone gets hurt?" he asked.
That icy ledge was daunting, so we opted to walk around the parking lot to the exit; there, the sidewalk resembled a frozen, choppy sea. Morrison said some riders have chosen to wait in the roadway. "I'm concerned about other people, too, especially the ones more handicapped than I am, people with walkers," he said.Brookhaven Town Code makes it clear that both residential and commercial property owners are responsible for sidewalks, town spokesman Jack Krieger said. The town enforces the measure only in response to complaints. (Call the town's hotline: 631-451-TOWN.)
Apparently no complaints had been filed, which may help explain why the property management company hadn't heard of the problem. Seth Kobay, president of Majestic Property Management Corp., said the company was unaware of the responsibility and hadn't received any directive to clear the sidewalks. "We have notified our snow removal contractor and they will take care of it immediately," Kobay said in an email after we spoke Wednesday.
Next stop, Wantagh, where sidewalks on Wantagh Avenue, just north of the train station, were under frozen muck early last week. Hills of snow put a bus shelter out of reach.
"I'm a resident of Wantagh and can access the railroad station by foot, a reason I bought this house," longtime resident Fred Ott told us. But uncleared sidewalks in front of stores and offices have sent commuters and other pedestrians into the roadway. Those sidewalks have gone unshoveled for several winters, Ott said, and he has asked the town and county for help, without results.
At Convermat Capital Group, which owns one of the commercial properties, Vida Mantel said the company has owned the site for 37 years "and has never ever touched" the sidewalk because "we believe [it] is not ours."
The parking lot is plowed, she said, "and all the tenants clean in front of their stores. But I can't touch the public sidewalks."
Hempstead Town sends inspectors when it receives complaints about sidewalks, spokesman Michael Deery said. (Call the supervisor's help line, 516-489-6000.) He said the town would notify Convermat of the town code requirement, even though that role belongs to the county because Wantagh Avenue is a county road. Deputy Town Attorney Charles Kovit cited a provision in Nassau's administrative code that makes the county responsible when complaints are made about sidewalks on county roads. (Complaints can be submitted via the county's Nassau Now app, available at nassaucountyny.gov, or by emailing the Department of Public Works at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
On Friday, the sidewalk along Wantagh Avenue was still encased in snow and slush. In Shirley, a crew with shovels and snow-removal equipment was clearing the sidewalk in front of the Pathmark shopping center.
Morrison pointed out that other corners of that intersection, at Montauk Highway and William Floyd Parkway, hadn't been cleared, leaving pedestrian crosswalk buttons behind an expanse of deep snow and slush.
Not every pedestrian is equipped with hip boots.
Last Sunday, we mentioned Hillside Avenue in New Hyde Park, where the sidewalk next to William Jordan's house has been refilled with heavy, icy slush each time plows pass. Jordan had asked if plow drivers could slow down in residential areas so the slush wouldn't spread as far.
A few days later, the state Department of Transportation told us that the problem isn't the speed of the plows.
"According to our NYSDOT Maintenance Engineers . . . it is unlikely that speed is a factor. Plow trucks operate at low speed along the businesses and homes . . . between 25-30 mph," the department said in a statement.
So why does the snow get flung so far? For starters, the statement said, wet snow travels farther than dry snow. Of late, we've been having wet snow.
Jordan wasn't convinced. For now, he and his grandson will keep on shoveling.