Saturday, January 29, 2011

Snow Job: Be Good To The Hood

I am going to say this for the social welfare of all New Yorkers, and quite particularly for those New Yorkers who have cars. I hope you are sitting down.

I have a minivan. It parks on the street, hopefully somewhere near my apartment. After the other night's snow, I got up early enough to get the shovel work done before the plows came through. This wasn't tough, because all the serious plowing was still being done on the main drags. I pulled the snow off and then shoveled the snow out from around the van, throwing some of it on the sidewalk pile and some in the street. I made sure I wouldn't compact the snow with my tires by clearing out underneath and in the tires' path.

Then the plows came and pushed most of the snow away. I was lucky enough to be on the left side of the street, easing my work.

There are a few ways of dealing with driving after a large snow. One way is to never move your parked car -in fact, never even clear the snow off of it. That's one way. Another way is to gun your engine, spinning your tires relentlessly, so that your can leave your spot in a half hour. That's one more way. Some do diligently clear out their spots, but then put garbage pails, cones, or saw horses in place. Yet another way, but it's illegal and rude -you haven't purchased the spot with your labor. I, or someone else, will park in that spot because we too have given up our spots. Rather obvious I suppose, but not to the entitled person who thinks their labor is worth more than any one's.

After a long day at the studio I hustled back to the neighborhood because I knew parking would be tough, but I found a few options. First, I parked temporarily and grabbed my shovel. I proceeded to clear out a spot by throwing the snow onto the large corner piles -not in the street where the slushy mix is collecting into hard ruts which are very difficult to navigate -forget parallel parking! Then I parked, clearing out more snow around the van so it's easy to pull out the next time. But I didn't stop there, no, I then cleared out a path behind my van because I was parked near the cross walk, which is blocked by a huge pile, and I want people to be able to cross safely.

I do not think I have taken extraordinary measures. Imagine if all the people in our neighborhood cleared out their cars early on, then continued to clear the spots as they left and returned. Maybe we wouldn't have verbal confrontations on the street about who owns spots and we wouldn't be sliding off ruts into parked cars, and all in all we would feel a sense of  accomplishment instead of the prevailing every person for themselves attitude.

Minnesotans laugh at New Yorkers. Why? Because we have an uncivilized approach to dealing with snow in the streets. They laugh because we refuse to work together. They have institutionalized their collective activity, so that they simply, all together, move their cars to one side of the street before the snow emergency so that the plow can clear one side, then move again to the other, so the plow can do the opposite side. It takes some organization, some doing, to get it to work, but work it does.

I'm not sure I would even recommend that for our town, but I highly recommend taking care of your car and your neighborhood by sacrificing a little time and labor to solve the problem instead of complaining so much about the snow and your lousy neighbor who took your spot, and then concocting something ridiculous like saw horses with tow away zone plastered all over it. Get real NYC.

I, for one, just wish the highway overpass sidewalks were cleared of snow or even just salted, bus stops and subway entrances were better cleared, and businesses did a little more to clear the corner crosswalk cutaways. It's still January folks, and all that slush is about to freeze. We need to spend a little more time and money on sidewalk clearing and let the car owners, like myself, take care of our own -and the best way to do that is to work together.


  1. I could not agree with you more. When we lived in Brooklyn, oh my the parking situation during and after a snowstorm was horrendous. Even worst, in my neighborhood, the homeowners used to fight with "visitors" about spots. It was ugly. If everyone had a little more courtesy and cleaned up the snow around them, it would definitely be more civilized!

  2. Hear hear!
    Personally, I don't understand why alternate side of the street is suspended for "snow removal" -- there's never a better time for it to be in effect!

  3. and please please please clear a path to the storm drains (aka catch basins). If a path is available to the DRAIN, wwhen melting occurs, it can DRAIN rather than refreeze. It seems such a simple idea.

  4. It should, but on our block the storm drains are underneath a mountain of snow about 5 feet by 12 feet!!

    It is bad news.


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...