Though the last couple of winters have been unusually mild, New York City does in fact get slammed with the occasional blizzard or ice storm—and when it does, the heavy snow and freezing temperatures inflict lots of wear-and-tear on co-op or condo buildings. Additionally, snow and ice coat sidewalks and curbs, creating headaches and potential hazards for buildings and associations.
Every building community needs to have a plan in place to deal with snow and ice issues, and almost 100 percent of the time, that means hiring a snow removal company to come and do the job in a timely manner. But even that isn’t always enough. A building must be sure that its staff is also prepared to deal with snowy/icy conditions, because slips-and-falls not only result in injuries (which of course nobody wants), but also lawsuits—and those can be very, very expensive, regardless of who wins.
“Building owners can remove snow themselves, or they can hire a superintendent or maintenance company to provide this service,” says R. J. Panda, property manager for Manhattan-based Fenwick Keats Management, Inc. “All owners and management companies should push for sidewalks and front steps to be cleared as soon as possible to prevent slip-and-fall hazards for residents and visitors.”
New York City sanitation code dictates that building owners are responsible to clear snow and ice from sidewalks and gutters within four hours after snow has stopped falling, or by 11 a.m. if the snow stopped falling after 9 p.m. the night preceding. According to the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), if snow or rain freezes and becomes too difficult to remove, an alternative is spreading cat litter (clean and unused, of course!), salt, sand, sawdust or a similar appropriate material within the time guidelines. However, the best option is to clear the ice or snow, and spread salt (or similar ice melt) to prevent refreezing.
According to Peter Lehr, director of property management at Kaled Management Corporation with offices in Long Island and New York City, it’s important to have a sound snow and ice policy in place so everyone on the staff knows their role in helping to clean up after a storm. “It’s not just about shoveling the sidewalks, but you have to ensure that the interiors by the door, and common areas where people are walking are also safe for residents,” he says. “Staff must put down proper snow mats and take other precautions against anyone getting hurt.”