Battle over clearing snow off sidewalks continues in Syracuse

There are 586 miles of sidewalks in the city of Syracuse but trying to walk them during the winter is very difficult. All property owners are required to keep their sidewalks clear but the city has no meaningful way to enforce it. Common councilors voted down a proposed $50 fine for an un-shoveled sidewalk earlier this month but agreed to keep discussing the issue. On Wednesday, representatives from the city DPW, parks department, police and city schools took questions from common councilors about how to keep city owned sidewalks clear.

DPW commissioner Pete O'Connor told common councilors that his crews have made some adjustments to do a better job keeping city owned sidewalks clear. Parks employees are also determining the most used sidewalks around Syracuse's 176 parks that will need to be shoveled first after a storm.

"There are some innovative ideas for how to deal with this, to figure out what streets need to be done and how we're going to prioritize that," said common councilor Bob Dougherty.

Neighbors also gave their ideas for how to improve the sidewalks. Cathy Roosa from the United Way recommended that Syracuse to use the template of a Boston based website that connects those who need help shoveling and willing volunteers.

"Because there will always be those neighbors who are injured, who are sick or disabled. they just can't get out of their homes, it's not as easy for them to clear their sidewalks," said Roosa.

The city has also looked at a model used in Rochester where all property owners pay an extra fee to have the city plow their sidewalks. Councilors say the program has been very expensive for Rochester to operate.

Karaline Rothwell and volunteers meet every Saturday on Syracuse's west side to help clear area sidewalks. Their work helps but Rothwell says it is clear the city needs a some way to make sure it happens everywhere.

"I think the whole community has to do something. residents, business owners, the city - everyone has to step up together to make it happen for pedestrians," said Rothwell.