Town To Biz Owners: Keep On Shoveling

HUNTINGTON VILLAGE, New York, Mar. 5

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

The temperatures have been slipping and falling all winter long, but that doesn’t mean pedestrians should follow suit.

While some sidewalks in front of storefronts and restaurants, particularly in Huntington’s downtowns, are clear, others force walkers to do a treacherous, icy dance.

Keeping the village’s sidewalks clear of ice is paramount to public safety, town officials and law experts say.
Keeping the village’s sidewalks clear of ice is paramount to public safety, town officials and law experts say.

“The public safety issue is a liability. A landlord [or shop owner] is responsible if somebody is injured on their property,” Kenneth Lindahl, director of public safety for the Town of Huntington, said. “They have a responsibility to make sure the sidewalks are cleaned… and are civilly liable if someone is injured.”

Carol Schlitt, a personal injury lawyer for The Schlitt Law Firm in Huntington, typically handles slip-and-fall cases. The attorney said that this is the first time she’s seen town officials going around to village businesses and ticketing for a lack of snow maintenance. Lindahl confirmed her observation, saying around 15,000 notices have been issued to merchants and homeowners this year.

“I think [ticketing] is a good thing,” she said. “On top of everything else, the streets are just as icy and slippery, and [if the sidewalks aren’t cleared] people literally have to walk in the street.”

Property owners, both commercial and residential, are held responsible, town spokesman A.J. Carter said, and the town has been trying to spread that message throughout the winter season.

But tenants may also have to keep up.

“Whether the store owner or the landlord must clear the snow is a matter of an agreement between the landlord and the tenant,” he said.

Even vacant stores have landlords, he added, and in that case they are responsible clearing snow and ice.

But where can it all go? With snowfall totals climbing, that’s a question some landlords and store owners might be asking.

“We’re mindful of the initial phase of snowfall,” Lindahl said. “As time [and snowfall] goes on, there’s more time to react. But people still have to spend some time getting the snow up somewhere else other than the sidewalk so that it can be transported to a remote spot.”

From there, it’s up to the town’s high way department to transport excess snow to a remote location – for example, the parking lot at Mil Dam Park.

Huntington town code states that within four hours after snow finishes falling, store owners must keep their sidewalk “free and clear of snow, ice, filth, dirt, weeds and all other obstructions.” Snow that falls between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. is not included in the four-hour window; store owners and landlords have until 11 a.m. the next day to clear overnight snowfall.

“I think that’s pretty reasonable,” Schlitt said.

Although the shoveling is important, plowing is also critical, Schlitt said – particularly in parking lots.

“Early in the morning you can tell whose plowers did a good job and who didn’t,” Schlitt said. “When you plow and don’t bring it down close enough to the asphalt [the conditions] become even more treacherous than if you had don’t nothing.”

Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander
(Thursday, Mar. 5, 2015;  A6)

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