As the city digs out after Tuesday’s snowstorm, Mayor Dawn Zimmer has told the City Council that Hoboken may need stiffer penalties for property owners who ignore local ordinances requiring them to shovel their sidewalks.
“The clearing of sidewalks continue[s] to be a challenge.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
“The clearing of sidewalks…continue[s] to be a challenge,” she said in a post-storm memo. “Our inspectors issue fines after every storm, but fines do not ensure that a sidewalk will be cleared and it is apparent that these fines are not enough to ensure consistent compliance.”
The streets were plowed quickly during Tuesday’s all-day snowfall, and by the next day, some crosswalks were cleared and others were not, forcing people – especially those with strollers – to get around in the streets. When alongside cars on dangerous roads, it presents a slippery situation.
But when property owners live out of town or are near municipal property, the issue of responsibility isn’t always clear.
The city has an ordinance requiring residents to clear sidewalks within the first six hours after every snow fall. The ordinance also requires residents to clear the gutters and not deposit snow into the street.
According to City Spokesman Juan Melli, the minimum fine for failing to comply is $100 and maximum fine is $1,000 with 90 days in jail.
“For repeat violations there is an additional $100 minimum fine,” added Melli.
In her memo, Zimmer introduced several ways the city could address the problem in the future by working with the city council to create new legislation.
“Some ideas under consideration include higher minimum fines, and for repeat offenders, we would outsource the work to clear the sidewalk and bill the property owner directly for the work,” wrote Zimmer. “Property owners who do not pay would then have a lien placed against their property.”
According to Melli, the city has issued 350 fines for non-compliance with the ordinance for last week’s storm, and will continue to issue fines for violations.
Property owners are subject to summons every 24 hours if sidewalks remain uncleared.
Blizzard? What blizzard?
Residents throughout Hoboken were warned Monday of an approaching blizzard that might drop anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of snow. Luckily the storm veered westward and left about eight inches. The snow fall continued most of the day, and schools were closed. They had a delayed opening on Wednesday.
The city was prepared ahead of the storm, and issued alerts warning residents to move cars off snow emergency routes, offered free parking in municipal garages and free long term parking in one of their lots.
“Only 17 people took us up on that [parking] offer,” said Director of Environmental Services Leo Pellegrini.
As of Thursday, crews were still working to clear the snow off corners and bus stops and four additional Bobcat tractors were brought in to focus exclusively on corners and crosswalks. Street sweeping is suspended until this Monday.
‘I appreciate the hard work of entire city and employees for the snow removal effort,” said councilman Ravi Bhalla. “I’ve been in Hoboken for about 17 years and we’ve come a long way with respect to crosswalks. I cleaned the crosswalk on my block.”
“As we are having an election,” joked Councilman Jim Doyle. “I cleaned out two corners on my block.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.