West Side Walks Begins a New Season of Grassroots Sidewalk Snow Removal

In Community, Direct Action on December 1, 2014 at 6:17 pm

As Winter returns to Syracuse, conversation once again turns to the long negligent planning for snow removal from sidewalks (and what will likely be an ever increasing issue with bike paths as well).  A recent Common Council proposal was voted down by 7 of 9 councilors that would have fined property owners $50 for not clearing the sidewalk of snow along “primary removal routes”.

Some folks have taken the role of sidewalk shoveling maven into their own hands, as the Westside Walks program of sidewalk snow removal began again this past Saturday. Volunteers with the Westside Residents Coalition (WRC) set out to clear Grace Street, from Delaware Street to Congress Avenue (the chosen route was due to the three bus stop locations along this two-block length of city street).

Six volunteers (including disabled, with baby in tow, and nearing senior age) took 90 minutes to accomplish the task.  It was a great show of community support, but it won’t accomplish a permanent and wide scale solution to the sidewalk safety problem we experience during Winter months in CNY.

Options seem fairly numerous, from sidewalk heating and sidewalk plowing with mini-plows, to youth job programs.  There could even be a hierarchical approach with levels of engagement – imagine bike lane and sidewalk mechanized plows for major arteries, contracted small business brigades with push snow blowers for secondary arteries, and youth brigades going out with shovels to individual need spots on lesser trafficked streets, with service for the elderly and disabled.

The budget will likely be the last hurdle for any of these ideas, too bad sidewalk snow removal wasn’t included in the recent Syracuse Billion proposal.  So we must continue to hope that the safety of our pedestrians, the quality of our streetscapes and neighborhoods, and the ability to leverage our city’s wonderful reputation as a northern winter wonderland (or at least the potential for that in light of our record as a northern winter snowfall capital) will receive the attention it deserves very very soon.

Until then, go slow, and consider coming out for some urban cross-training with the West Side Walks crew every Saturday.


Cruz pausing for my camera phone, recognizes the importance of safe and walk-able streets as he looks forward to being a local business owner some day.


Robert came in from outside the city to work off some Thanksgiving calories via community service.


Cameraman selfie, in between shoveling, chatting, and breaking up ice.


Unfortunately, plastic shovels, even with metal tipped edges, are not always a match for driveway portions of the sidewalk that are crushed down by vehicles and can become a sheet of ice that would easily force someone into the street. Timely snow removal could help prevent this from happening.


A not-so-friendly stretch of sidewalk in the target area that has basically become an icy sheet due to pedestrian traffic over the snow.


The CENTRO bus stop at the corner of Grace and Delaware overlooks footprints in the snow of people who come in and off the roadway instead of walking on the icy sidewalk.


More good work of the Westside Residents Coalition in the neighborhood. Syringe litter is a problem of concern here as it is in many parts of the city, but concerned and caring citizens are confronting it directly.


Karaline, Susan, and Gary work on the final stretch together before the whole crew heads inside for a community lunch of turkey casserole and vegetarian sweet potato and black bean chili at Brown Memorial on South Geddes St.

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