Schenectady must address sidewalks
Good news for Schenectady property owners: Mayor Gary McCarthy appears to have vetoed engineer Chris Wallin’s plan to require homeowners to replace illegal asphalt sidewalks with concrete. Bad news for Schenectady pedestrians: The city’s sidewalks are in such lousy shape, with the cost of replacing them so high, that scores of property owners have had their sidewalks dug up and replaced with grass.
Schenectady is, of course, hardly alone with its sidewalk maintenance dilemma. Any municipality where there is old concrete and tall trees is essentially in the same boat: Eventually the roots undermine the pavement, and even though the property owner doesn’t own the sidewalk in front of his property, he’s responsible for its upkeep.
It’s unacceptable in such cases for residents to dig up their sidewalks as an alternative to repaving them, and the city has to stop anyone else from doing it. The whole point of having a network of sidewalks is to have a safe place for children or adults to walk, mothers to push their strollers, the disabled to navigate with their wheelchairs, etc. If the concrete is loaded with cracks and holes, or has been replaced by grass, the network isn’t very effective.
A couple years ago, the city wisely abandoned its longtime policy of repaving sidewalks whenever it repaved streets. Too many of its roads were in such bad shape and needed repaving that the city really couldn’t afford to do sidewalks anymore. But in reality, it never really could afford the extravagance. What it needed, instead, was the kind of sidewalk replacement program that other municipalities in the region have adopted, where property owners pay for the materials and municipal workers do the work. At the very least, it needed to enforce its law — citing homeowners when sidewalks became impassable.
Of course, it’s still not too late for a sidewalk program like that - and that won't change even if the city continues to ignore the problem for another 10 years and its sidewalks get even worse. Is it any wonder so many pedestrians have gotten out of the habit of using them?