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Mayor Defends City Efforts to Get Residents, Merchants to Clear Walks
About 150 property owners, including many merchants, were slapped with summonses over a 10-day period, Brown said.
But the mayor added that enforcers don't want to be "overly onerous" in targeting citizens.
The main focus has been on snow-clogged sidewalks along commercial districts, near schools and around parking lots. Crews have been less forceful in issuing shoveling summonses on streets that are primarily residential, said Richard M. Tobe, who heads inspections.
The issue was a key topic at a meeting of Buffalo's accountability panel. The city's chief ombudsman said complaints about unshoveled sidewalks increased Friday, but he attributed it to a report in The Buffalo News that focused on criticism from a pedestrian advocate.
Complaints about snowy sidewalks weren't "abnormally high" until the story was published, Citizen Services Director Oswaldo Mestre Jr. told the CitiStat panel. But Mestre encouraged people to call the city's complaint hotline at 851-4890 if they spot impassable sidewalks.
"We can't do something if we don't know anything about it," he said.
Community activist Bill Durfee criticized the city for dealing with winter sidewalk woes "reactively," waiting until complaints come in. Durfee resigned from a city pedestrian advisory panel this week after saying he was being excluded from policy discussions.
The city has been taking steps to address snow-clogged sidewalks, Brown insisted. He noted that First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey held a recent meeting to coordinate efforts between inspectors, police officers and the office of administrative adjudication.
The city also mailed a flier to block club representatives and other community liaisons about a month ago, reminding them that property owners must clear their sidewalks by 9 a.m. after a snowfall.
The slinger features a color photo of a smiling Brown beneath the headline: "Winter Tips From Byron Brown." In addition to highlighting the city's shoveling law, the flier urges people to avoid depositing snow on a neighbor's property and to obey parking restrictions.
"This is a good start," Brown told his citizen services staff. "But we certainly want to be more proactive."
People who ignore snow clearing chores face an initial fine of $52.50, said Alisa M. Lukasiewicz, the city's top attorney. A second violation will cost offenders $75, and the fine increases to $150 for subsequent infractions.
But what about senior citizens and people who have physical disabilities?, asked Human Resources Commissioner Leonard A. Matarese.
Mestre said that while all property owners have a responsibility to keep sidewalks clear, the city has been encouraging block clubs and other groups to find help for elderly and disabled residents.
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Photos by Angel Art LTP, compliments of the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additional photos by Adrian Roselli, compliments of Algonquin Studios