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Shoveling snow may be a pain, but it beats the alternatives

The state of New York and the city of Albany take snow removal seriously. Property owners -- whether residential or commercial -- have 24 hours from the end of the storm to clean all of the sidewalks around your property, including handicap ramps. The city asks, but does not require, that property owners clear the snow from around fire hydrants, as well. You never know if someone will need it, and we would all rather have firefighters fighting fires than shoveling snow.

Failure to do these things -- with the exception of the fire hydrant -- can result in a fine and, in some cases, a bill for the city's cost of removing the snow. Property owners can also be fined for tossing snow into the street. That includes the snow from a parking lot.

All of this information and more is in the city's pamphlet, "When it snows in Albany…." A quick turn to the Department of General Services website shows that the ordinance applies to ice on sidewalks, too.

Other cities seem to have the same rule: Failure to shovel within 24 hours can a) risk a fine, b) risk a lawsuit, or c) risk both a fine and a lawsuit.

New York City, however, expects more of its citizens. Property owners there have four hours to clear the sidewalks and gutters of snow and ice -- or strew ashes if the ice cannot be removed without damaging the pavement -- except between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. In an interesting twist, the ordinance does not prohibit throwing the snow into the street directly in front of the property. (If you think about it, where else could it go?) The city's short shoveling period is designed to get the snow off the sidewalks into the street and then the snow from the sidewalks and the street off the street.

The city takes the penalties one step farther than Albany does. A violation earns a fine, the violator must reimburse the city of the cost of removing the snow, and the violator may spend as many as 10 days in jail.

We bring this up as a timely reminder to property owners: Shoveling is much less expensive and very much less of a hassle than a premises liability lawsuit. Know the laws in your city -- be it Albany, New York or Schenectady -- and take care of the sidewalks.


City of Albany, General Services Department, "Snow and Ice Removal," accessed March 7, 2015

New York City Administrative Code § 16-123: Removal of snow, ice and dirt from sidewalks; property owners' duties

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