Brooklyn Heights Blizzard Etiquette 101 or Winter Wonderland, Please!

We received this suggestion for an Open Thread topic  from a BHB reader who wishes to remain anonymous.  It’s about being kind to your neighbors, being courteous and maybe SHOVELING YOUR SIDEWALK after a blizzard. Here’s the full email:

I’m writing to suggest a special edition of Open Thread Wednesday titled something like: “Open Thread Wednesday – Blizzard Etiquette 101″. The purpose would be to have a place to vent about, and make suggestions to eliminate, all the relatively minor, but very aggravating, inconveniences of the storm which are caused, not by big city agencies, but by our very own neighbors.

I was out and about in the Heights quite a bit today, and have a long list of vents, but for the most part they are not NYC level problems; they are neighborhood problems which should, IMO, be solved by the nabe, and could easily be solved with a little respect, courtesy and diligence. Here are some examples:

* businesses that don’t clear sidewalks, and I want to name names, such as CVS on Henry St. which never clears the Love Lane sidewalk, and Ann Taylor on Montague which was a mess today, as were some others on the north side of Montague;

* residential buildings that don’t clear sidewalks, and I want to give street names and numbers, (and print out the BHB blog post and leave it under their door);

* residential buildings on corners that don’t keep a path to the street clear, (so, when you get to the corner you have to climb a mountain or slog through a foot of slush to get to the street):

* pedestrians who do not in any way accommodate those approaching from the opposite direction on an 18″ wide shoveled path, by, for example, stopping at the beginning of the narrow path to let another pass through, or at least attempting to do “the squeeze”, so two individuals can use the narrow path at the same time;

* pedestrian lack of empathy for, and assistance to, the obviously infirm, examples from today including: showing great impatience with our slower-moving, cane/walker assisted neighbors, not yielding the right-of-way on narrow paths when a less agile pedestrian is approaching, not offering assistance on snow hills and slushy corners, etc.

* parents who allow children to play/sit on their snow coasters, sleds, etc. on these narrow walkways, oblivious to the fact that pedestrian traffic is backing up because the little ones are blocking the path for all, (and especially, those parents who become insulting and hostile when a blocked pedestrian says “excuse me” and asks the child to move out of the way).

I think this would be a worthwhile topic for the blog, because I truly believe that many offenders are not necessarily inconsiderate, but perhaps just unaware, so raising awareness might do a little good in improving conditions for all in the Heights.

Share this Story:

Connect with BHB

Get BHB in your inbox everyday. Enter your email below.


  • ClintonStRez

    I totally agree that some public disclosure of the worst violators is in order. I would add to the original list the American Apparel store on Court street and the Rite Aid at the corner of Court and Atlantic, neither of which ever seem to shovel their show.

  • Fritz

    68 Montague took a while to shovel. It’s got a long stretch of sidewalk.

  • ABC

    I don’t think residential buildings on corners are responsible to clear a path to the street. I think they only have to do their sidewalks and the city is supposed to take care to clear the intersection (some of the hourly people they hire can be seen doing this .. sometimes)

    I hope people would show patience to all — the elderly and the young alike. Obv this poster had an unpleasant encounter with a kid and parent, but it is some kid’s first blizzard out there. Enough of the bah hum bug, Brooklyn Heights.

  • north heights res

    ABC, it’s pretty inconsiderate to treat the sidewalks as a playground or one’s own personal front porch for chatting at any time, but with limited sidewalk space, it’s really ridiculous for kids to be hanging out there with oblivious parents. Is it really too much to ask for parents to be cognizant that their children are not the center of the universe – or the sidewalk – for everyone? There are plenty of places – the promenade, for instance – where kids can bask in the blizzard.

    The decision to have children doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to be as indulgent of them as their parents are.

  • north heights res

    And to return to the point of this thread: figuring out how to get the snow away from one’s car and NOT back into the street or onto the sidewalk is a real challenge, especially with all of this snow, but we should all make an effort not to undo the snow removal work that’s already been done…though exactly how, I have not totally figured out…

  • T.K. Small

    Today I spent about 15 min. on the phone with 311 asking about snow removal in the pedestrian ramps/curb cuts, speaking with someone named Omega. Somehow I was able to resist the temptation to ask whether her parents had a fondness for fish oil and whether her middle name was “3”. After I repeatedly explained what a curb cut was, what she could do was read the basic description of clearing a sidewalk.

    When I get the exact answer, I will report back.

  • Ben

    T. K,

    I wish that Mayor Bloomberg could read your blog entry.

  • gc

    not sure why, but … the corners in the north heights are much worse than anywhere else in the neighborhood

  • ABC

    north heights res,

    I guess you and I have had very different snow storms, but the only time I’ve been stuck behind people blocking the sidewalk or stopping to chat, they have been adults. That’s happened frequently, and I haven’t really been bugged too much about them acting as if they were the center of the universe.

  • communitarian

    Given the time of year, it’s highly possible that many homeowners are away for the holidays (and maybe can’t even get home yet). The most neighborly thing to do would be to shovel their sidewalks for them….

  • AEB

    Front of my building at Hicks and Middagh miraculously cleared on Monday AM–we have no super, and it’s unlikely, though possible I guess, that the HS shoveling guys spread the wealth, so to speak.

    This AM’s bulldozing deposited snow on the cleared walk in front of the building, so when I got home from work, I shoveled. Does make the heart beat faster….

  • ilikebrooklyn

    The still unspoken danger is ice chunks fall from building (perhaps it was discussed and I missed it). I was walking on Court St. at 11:00 AM Tuesday morning and a huge chunk of ice fell from a building around Remsen… not sure which. It just missed a couple of us.

    I was walking by the same area at 4:15 PM and the same thing happened. I guess the morale of the story is don’t walk near ilikebrooklyn or maybe others have experienced the same.

  • helloheights

    last winter some old lady in a walker trying to get over an unshoveled portion of Henry Street said:
    “who doesn’t shovel their sidewalk?!? DISGUSTING!!!!”

  • AL

    Communitarian – People who go away should pre-arrange for someone to shovel their sidewalks in the event of snow during their absence.

  • ExileOnHicksStreet

    thank you communitarian…

    i, too, believe that pointing the finger at residences and businesses and “shaming” them into doing something will be, at best, ineffective.

    perhaps there’s a way to encourage some of the better-equipped business and residences (perhaps those with a mechanized snow-blower?) to do the right thing for their neighbors and the neighborhood.

  • lori

    Altho it is the city’s responsibility to clean the corner paths, it was clear that this was not going to be done this time. So – there were many corner buildings which did this. I commend 25 Pierrepont Street for not only clearing their large corner sidewalk, but clearing a path to the street. Also – One Pierrepont Street cleared a path to the street. 187 Hicks Street did a great job on their sidewalk and corner as did 55 Pierrepont Street. There are many I left out who did great jobs or who did miserable jobs, but stores especially should do a good job on their sidewalks.

  • T.K. Small

    @Lori, I would agree that 55 Pierrepont did an excellent job of shoveling a wide swath of sidewalk, but I am concerned that they did not shovel to the edge of the curb under the awning. If this was a matter of saving effort, they should have left the snow in front of the windows of the Women’s Exchange and the Jubilee Center.

  • Really

    Everyone on here sounds nuts. I feel like I’m watching fox news , finger pointing and complaining. It was a blizzard, not a tragedy. It’s snow, not a mugging. Kids play, people walk slowly, people think about themselves and don’t shovel, others shovel entire blocks. The cool thing about snow is that it melts, so don’t worry you’ll be able to get out of your apartment to slip the complaints under the doors without having to climb a mound or wait for a kid…I’m scared to read this when a real problem arises!

  • Anon

    If you don’t like how some corporate stores are handling their responsibilities, you should go online and complain through the corporate website. Sometimes those complaints do go up and will come back down to management.

    If you want to point out a competing neighborhood store, or even another branch of that same corporation that’s doing a good job with the snow, that’d be even more effective. It’d be harder for Rite Aid on Court to claim it was impossible if Rite Aid on Montague did what they needed to and shoved out.

  • my2cents

    I saw some kids playing behind a snow fort in the middle of Cranberry Street today and it warmed my heart. When i got home, the plows had come and the fort was gone…I know it sucks for some people, but I kind of enjoyed having a few “pedestrian-only” blocks for a few days.

  • Alanna

    our area resembled what it would look like if AMC’s “The Walking Dead” was filmed in, say, the cold NorthEast as opposed to Atlanta the last few days. “Dont go outside, it’s only walkers out there”.

    In all seriousness, it was a blizzard, the city shoudl have done more and we, as individuals, could have done more shoveling as well. You’ll be HARD PRESSED to find an employee of Ann Taylor, CVS, etc take a shovel and do anything – it’s just not what they are paid for and they will be the first one’s to tell you that.

    TK, I hope you get some *real* answers and I hope that transportation becomes easier as the day progresses.

    Good thing is…it will melt this weekend quite a bit.
    Bad thing is … it will melt and slide off the roofs! ahh, everyone just look up “sky is falling!” :P

  • Annoyed

    I must say that all this fuss about the storm is totally ridiculous. I think too many people have way too much time on thier hands. The Heights is full of self absorbed complainers rain or shine, blizzard or windstorm. This storm is the complainers “Superbowl.” Instead of taking to the blogs and calling 311 for a little snow or a stuck car, why not get off your overprivledged rear end ,or better yet get your brats away from the internet and the video games, and grab a shovel.

  • T.K. Small

    @Alanna, a disabled friend of mine is a reporter who will be traveling with the Mayor tomorrow. He plans to ask my question, especially since it relates to him too. So I will probably have an answer soon.

    As for snow removal outside of a business, I would think that the landlord/property manger also bears responsibility. The two Rite Aid stores a question are in different buildings with obviously different results. The store Montague Street is part of 16 Court St. which has only struck me as managed much better. Apart from contacting the businesses which are not shoveling, letting the landlord know that their tenants are not shoveling would probably help.

  • x

    I must say most of Montague Street did a very good job, esp the area near Archstone and Garden of Eden.

  • Topham Beauclerk

    How amusing that the writer should imagine that the “offenders are not necessarily inconsiderate but perhaps just unaware…” Pious nonsense. Very rarely do adults who are not mental defectives give offense unknowingly.

  • Gimpy

    Unless I am mistaken, sidewalk shoveling is not just a courtesy to ones neighbors, but is required by law. As I walk with some difficulty and use a cane, I am pretty conscious of who shovels and who does not, but what I have never, ever seen, is anyone getting a ticket for not shoveling. I think it’s a safe bet that a fifty dollar ticket would be a greater deterrent than little love-notes from neighbors or any attempts at “shaming” anyone into shoveling. I have a neighbor who doesn’t ever shovel, and I am looking at the mounds on his walk right now–how many days after the snowfall? And even if I could shovel for him, I wouldnt, as it would enable his indifference to his neighbors. And it isn’t, as one poster whined, that people who complain about not shoveling don’t have better things to do, it’s that this practice creates a hazard for one’s neighbors.

  • T.K. Small

    My reporter friend got back to me sooner than expected and sent me the following message:

    “I just had a lengthy conversation with Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty regarding this matter.

    Doherty says it is the responsibility of Sanitation to clear the curb cuts and bus stops and that doing so is “a top priority for the department.”

    Doherty said that the 2,000 day laborers the city has out shoveling today are doing exactly that, but it is a difficult job.

    1. A curb cut can’t be cleared until the street is clear; 2. They can only send out the number of workers they have and he only has so many people signed up; 3. Many people are shoveling snow back into curb cuts or bus stops; 4. Many sanitation police officers are being reassigned to help clear snow so there are less enforcement people out there to enforce rules about clearing snow.

    Doherty said that you can call 311 and inform that you have a mobility impairment and need your curb ramp clean and DSNY will make every effort to prioritize.”.

  • Tony

    And how about people petting a little pep in their step! The sidewalks are filled with slush, not ice. I was stuck behind an annoying couple strolling at a leisurely pace along Henry Street the other day. Move it, people!

  • Annoyed

    Who exactly is going to hand out those 50 dollar tickets, as one poster suggested, after this storm? and what forum would hear all the protests? More Government employees, no . It all costs money. Agreed that this storm is a nuisance, but dont agree it requires the amount of belly aching or any call to 311 to complain.

  • amy

    I tried to go up Joralemon yesterday with a toddler and a stroller and couldn’t even budge. My major complaint is for those who shoveled infront of thier home a narrow way and not consider people with strollers. Columbia place is much worse. Who is incharge of shoveling infront of the dog park and the playground?