November 28, 2021

Far from firm footing

Mobility concerns arise over snow-covered sidewalks

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

Snow banks, like the ones in front of the Cortland Post Office, have received attention after causing issues with people moving from their cars on the street to the sidewalk. On Wednesday morning small foot paths were worn down through the snow.

Mary Lynn crept Wednesday morning from her car, through a sliver of a path in the snowbank toward the Cortland Post Office on Main Street.

Making a way through the path in the snow could be tricky, said Lynn, of Pomeroy Street. “There’s not much they can do once the plows go through,” she said.

Earlier in the week, Bob Ferris, owner of Ferris Real Estate, pointed out there were no access points through the snow on the curb for people to walk through after parking their cars.

“For a youthful athletic person they could navigate through it,” Ferris said. Maybe not so much for an older person; Ferris noted he watched an older man decide to just go home instead of trying to make it to the post office.

Ferris wanted to draw attention to the issue so nobody would get hurt.

Kristie Beam, postmaster at the office, said it’s her understanding the post office is responsible for the sidewalk. But city workers have come by before and shoveled the snowbank from the curb and created paths for people.

However, Nic Dovi, city deputy public works superintendent, said shoveling the curb in front of post office is the post office’s responsibility.

“We take care of the snowbanks when we can in the downtown area,” Dovi said.

Lynn said the issue of snow on the sidewalks was not limited to the downtown area.

Sidewalks could use more care in her neighborhood around Pomeroy Street, Lynn said. “Some people are good,” she said. “But it seems to be a bit of a problem.”

The responsibility to clear snow from sidewalks lies with property owners, but if they don’t, there’s no quick fix, said Cortland Code Enforcement Officer William Knickerbocker. Absent a pressing safety issue, a long system of verbal and written notices comes before the city cleans it.

Access to Independence, a local advocacy group for people with disabilities, stresses the importance for property owners to make sure sidewalks are clean, said Executive Director Aaron Baier, particularly curb cuts where snow can impede use.

“All these things impede a person’s access to being a safe pedestrian and feeling included,” Baier said.

Snow-covered sidewalks makes a community appear unwelcoming, Baier said, especially to those with mobility issues and seniors. “We want to be welcoming to all people,” he said.