No doubt about it, the Big Apple is a pedestrian town: according to the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), over eight million people tread the city’s approximately 12,750 square miles of sidewalks each day.
New Yorkers are accustomed to traipsing through all types of inclement weather, but during the harsh winter months, making one’s way from Point A to Point B becomes even more of a battle. Winter weather creates hazardous conditions that can be extremely dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians, and while there are city agencies responsible for monitoring and dealing with the icy side effects of freezing temperatures and winter storms on public roadways, taking care of slippery sidewalks is a responsibility that falls more squarely upon the shoulders of civilians—including co-op and condo boards.
The City Side
The DOT is the agency that monitors and controls sidewalk repairs across the five boroughs. In 1992, the DOT created the Office of Sidewalk Management (OSM) to promote the issue of pedestrian safety to educate and inform the public regarding responsibilities and procedures for maintaining sidewalks in safe condition.
The OSM and the City Charter and the New York City Administrative Code categorize city sidewalks into three major groups: City-owned property; one-, two- and three-family owner-occupied properties; and “four-plus,” which includes all multifamily buildings and commercial properties. According to Diane Altieri of the OSM, “The DOT now focuses its maintenance efforts on sidewalks abutting city property, as well as one-, two-, and three-family owner-occupied properties throughout the five boroughs.” For buildings categorized as “four-plus,” the property owner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of all sidewalks abutting the property.
This specification is fairly recent. According to Robert J. Braverman, a managing partner with the law firm of Braverman & Associates, PC in Manhattan, “Up until a few years ago, the city was responsible for the maintenance and repair of sidewalks. However, the law was changed [in 2002], and now unless the building is a one- to three-family residence—which would exclude almost all co-ops and condominiums—the property owner bears the responsibility” for maintaining those sidewalks.”