N.Y. Has Shovel Law So People Won't 'Forgetaboutit'

New Yorkers have a strict deadline for getting their sidewalks cleared. After the storm ends, they have four hours to rid of the snow in front of their buildings. If they haven't shoveled, police hand out tickets. New York City law allows sanitation workers to give out citations as well.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

And take it from me, shoveling snow is hard work. Then theres the question of etiquette. Do you help your neighbors? Can you charge them money? Is it okay to leave your sidewalk unshoveled? We sent three reporters out into the cold. NPRs Robert Smith is in New York.

ROBERT SMITH: New York City can be so quiet when it snows. But when that last snowflake falls, forget about it.

(Soundbite of shoveling)

SMITH: The clock is ticking. New York City law says you have four hours - four hours! - to get rid of the snow in front of your building. So by the morning after the big snowstorm, Brooklyn neighborhoods were a symphony of scraping.

(Soundbite of shoveling)

SMITH: Jim Manuel(ph) was out shoveling five times during the storm. Now, hes doing his final sweep.

Mr. JIM MANUEL: Moved two inches five times, versus 10 inches once, you know, the arithmetic works out to your favor.

SMITH: Manuels good at this. Hes finished before 11:00 a.m., when the city starts handing out snow tickets. And its not the cops were on the lookout for. Its the garbage men. New York City allows every sanitation worker to give out $150 citations. Manuels not worried.

Mr. MANUEL: I grew up 100 miles north of Detroit. This is not all that much snow.

SMITH: Agreed, but there are particular problems in New York. For instance, you have to figure out where to put the snow, and you don't want to put it on a neighbor or bury in someones car.

Mr. MANUEL: Right there.

SMITH: Ah, the old hide-it-under-the-tree trick.

The law in New York only says the sidewalk has to be passable - please consult your lawyer. On some streets, its just a narrow path. On Ira Sacks(ph) block...

Look at this, you are getting every inch of snow. You are getting it all the way right to the curb.

Mr. IRA SACKS: Thats - that was my goal.

SMITH: Turns out, theres a little bit of peer pressure.

Mr. SACKS: My neighbor started a trend right here. And he pushed it completely off. I said, you know what, this is the right thing to do.

SMITH: By 11 a.m., the neighborhood is so clear it passes the mommy test. Lea Stocka(ph) can easily get her stroller, and her 2-year-old, all the way down the block.

Ms. LEA STOCKA: Actually, Im pretty impressed.

SMITH: And to be fair to the rest of the country, those of us in Brooklyn only have about 15, 20 feet to clear.

Ms. STOCKA: Yes, this is true. While we would like more, sometimes its good that we have less space.

SMITH: And more people to shovel it.

Robert Smith, NPR News, Brooklyn.

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