Incident on State Street

I called the city’s 311 hotline today because early this morning a woman slipped and fell on the ice.  When I got there she wasn’t moving.  Her husband didn’t have a cell phone.  He hovered over her, squeezing her hand.  I think he was in shock.  A bag of groceries lay next to her.  They had gone out for bagels and orange juice.  She wasn’t even trying to sit up.   I almost slipped trying to reach her, it was sheer ice.  She lay on her side.  Her husband had placed his hat underneath her head.

She was conscious but speaking very quietly.  Her husband didn’t have a cell and neither did I.  A Time Warner truck slowed down— he too saw the woman flat out on the sidewalk, not moving— and asked what he could do.  I said, “Call an ambulance.”  Meanwhile other neighbors gathered.  Someone tried the Fire Department.  The woman on the ice still wasn’t moving.  I asked her if she was cold.  I thought I’d drape my wool coat over her.  She whispered, “No, I’m sweating.”

As the ambulance from LICH pulled up, the husband said to me, “She pregnant.” I rubbed his shoulder and said, “I’m sure she’ll be fine.”  He thanked everyone for their moral support, got in the ambulance and drove off.  This woman fell on a stretch of State Street that is always a disaster in inclement weather.  It is never shoveled or de-iced.  I called 311 when I got home.  I was transferred three times to various departments in HPD.

At one point, a woman said, “You are speaking to the wrong department.”  And I replied, “Well I didn’t transfer myself!”  Finally I reached a woman who told me I have to file the complaint with the Sanitation Department.  I said, “Fine, put me in touch with them.”  She said she couldn’t do that because they were involved in a snow removal action.  They weren’t taking any complaints. “But wait,” I said, “Isn’t that the same time that people would complain about the sidewalks?”  She didn’t respond to that.  She only said, “I hope I helped you today.”

She did try.  At least she was able to verify that, yes, it is the responsbility of the owner of a piece of property— whether its a condo, an apartment building, business or vacant lot— to maintain the sidewalks.  So whoever you are, owner of an apartment building on State and Garden, get your act together and start doing your job.  Or hire someone.  It would be terrible  if this morning’s scenario played out again on another sunny winter morning.

Brooklyn Heights resident LA Slugocki is a new contributor to BHB. Read her blog at

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  • Monty

    I think that while the city would ideally be handing out summonses left and right for icy sidewalks, it would be a massive effort and not likely to happen. I think a nastygram slipped under the door might be effective as well. That or a lawsuit.

  • Kaja

    I’d suggest you should’ve called 911 (not 311) once it was established that the lady wasn’t lightly concussed, and then taken down and publicized the address of the property with the icy walk.

    If you could’ve pulled it off without seeming morbid, photograph the property, with the woman lying in front of it, and again the ice on which she slipped, from a few angles.

    As 311 and yourself so rightly point out, it’s not the City’s job to watch out for you when citizens don’t care for their public property.

    If the woman is actually injured, she’ll file a medical insurance claim, and her insurer will sue the property-owner on whose ice she wiped out. If you’ve been a good disinterested citizen and the injured has your number, your photographs will be requested by her insurance company, and will let the courts sort it out.

    Then, the dude will begin properly salting his sidewalk.

  • my2cents

    What a terrible story! I am glad that you and other people stepped in to help. But my one question was what building was the sidewalk in front of? Unless it is a city building, the property owner is the one to blame, not the city. And they should be fined or even sued.

  • travy

    the injured should file a lawsuit. fear of getting sued is an amazing motivational device…

  • cv

    I moved to Bklyn Heights a couple of years ago from Manhattan. I have been shocked and saddened by the rampant disregard for human life and safety shown by so many homeowners (and by some businesses) during the winter around here. I felt much safer walking around Manhattan on icy days; I lived in a wide variety of Manhattan neighborhoods for many years and never had this problem. When I moved to Bklyn Heights, I was told by friends who lived here that I was moving to a caring, neighborly “small town” within a big city. Having spent two winters here now, I’ve come to question this assessment, although I do see charm and neighborliness in other aspects of life here — but obeying the law and taking responsibility for the safety of one’s neighbors is a huge aspect, one that ought not to be ignored or enabled.

  • bornhere

    This is a living example of the related discussion on the BHB a couple of weeks ago. For those who argue the point, it’s a reminder that ice/snow on sidewalks is more than a nuisance. What an awful thing.
    This could/should have been called in to 911 as a “Dangerous Condition,” which is accepted police-/emergency-speak for something that can really do damage.

  • weatherman

    in the interests of pulblicizing the offenders – some folks on cranberry st. could benefit themselves and the rest of us by shoveling, or at least salting, their walks.

  • MadeInBrooklyn

    Two other spots NEVER shoveled: Clark Street between Hicks and Willow, pretty much at the Corner of Willow. Remsen Street between Hicks and Henry, towards the middle of the block… Both very, very dangerous.

  • Neighborhood Observer

    Sanitation was out and about dumping huge piles of salty sand of the dog paw destroying variety at many corners. Sanitation supervisors were in the area. It would be very nice if the salt was spread more sparingly and the remainder used on spots not addressed by owners. Then the City could fine people for not fulfilling their responsibilities….as they do when garbage/recycle items are not handled just right or when they cruise the streets to tow “illegally’ parked cars within minutes of the turnover time. The Witnesses, what ever people think of them otherwise, dutifully salt (over salt) the streets and sidewalks around their buildings, thereby creating some of the best paths around the BH neighborhood on icy days. BHA could get involved. I doubt if the offenders are reading this blog, but there’s gotta be a way to address this issue.

  • nabeguy

    How about if the salt-avoiding pet owners let their dogs do their business ONLY on un-shoveled sidewalks? It would be safer for the paws, and might even help melt some of the snow. If nothing else, people would probably give the sidewalk a wide berth once they saw the mess, thus avoiding potential slips.

  • Ari

    I gotta agree with CV.

    I’ve been here 4 winters now and its amazing how few homeowners/building owners don’t shovel/salt their sidewalks. In the last storm I had to walk DOWN THE MIDDLE OF JORALEMON as this was only safe way to walk down the steep hill. Both sides of the sidewalk were an inch thick sheet of ice.

  • north heights

    Can we add Hicks between Clark and Pineapple to the list of offenders? I walked up it Sunday morning and not a single homeowner had come out of his gorgeous brownstone residence to touch the sidewalk. Solid ice.

  • AliG

    MadeIn, I live right next to the bldg on Remsen that never shovels. F&ckers. But let me tell you, at 10:22 last night they were scraping it clean! Someone must have busted their @ss. Too bad someone has to lose an eye before anyone does anything about it.
    And since the last gabfest about this issue it seems Our Lady of Lebanon got the message.

  • nabeguy

    I neither condone nor defend the inaction of my neighbors when it comes to clearing their sidewalks, but I’ve noticed a common thread in some of the described incidents, namely that they happened early in the morning. Can anyone say exactly how early they occured? Not every one is willing to awaken at the crack of dawn to adhere to the letter of the law. Me, I’m cursed with an overanxious fear of liability lawyers and am out at 6:30 AM with shovel and salt, but I know that I’m the exception. And I also know that the sound of a shovel and scraper are not things that most people want to be woken by on a Sunday morning.

  • yo

    yeah, the doctor’s office on Aitken and Clinton is especially bad. the doctor parks his car illegally on aitken all the time (totally abusing the doctor on call exception) and the sidewalk on the aitken side of the office is never shoveled while the clinton side is.

  • Anonymous

    I am out most mornings before 6 AM and let me tell you barely anyone shovels snow….

  • Heightsmom

    I’ve been pregnant through two winters in this neighorhood and the condition of sidewalks — Cranberry between Hicks and Willow being one of the worst — in front of many buildings is absolutely inexcusable. It’s a miracle I only fell once in each pregnancy and that my baby wasn’t hurt. I wish the city would do a ticket blitz. At risk of sounding classist (reverse-classist?) I have to say that single family brownstones are the most common class of offender. If you can afford the house, you can afford to pay someone to keep the sidewalks clear for your neighbors.

  • cv

    On Sunday morning, friends were coming to visit us at eleven a.m. While they were walking to our home, they witnessed a woman take a terrible fall on the ice. They — and some others — stayed to help her. This did not take place at the crack of dawn. This occurred at ten forty five a.m. Perhaps we should list the specific addresses of the buildings/homes/businesses that are the worst offenders online — and perhaps also leave notes for them at their homes — not nasty, condemning notes, which would probably just get them all riled up, but notes appealing to their humanity.

  • Jose Uribe

    The best thing to do is sue. Any decent tort lawyer could win a settlement for someone who was injured slipping on an unmaintained sidewalk. That’ll make ’em shovel and salt.

  • joe

    I hope the woman and her baby are fine. It is really sad this had to happen to anyone. I never had this problem in manhattan either but noticed that its pretty rampant problem here in BH. I took my son to school in a stroller and it was really slippery even in my snow boots.

  • north heights

    On Sunday at noon, I was walking up Hicks towards Cranberry, west side of the street. The entire block was untouched.

  • Jeremy

    To follow up on nabeguy’s post (and also his introduction – I’m not in any way justifying the owners who don’t clear their sidewalks):

    The law in NYC is that the sidewalks must be cleared within 4 hours after the snow ends. But you have until 11am the next day to clear it if the snow stops falling after 9pm. Now, we all know that merely complying with the minimum of what the law requires is not always the same thing as doing the right thing. Nevertheless, the city isn’t going to get involved if you call 311 at 10:45 am.

    For this storm in particular, the people who actually were out in the snow on Saturday afternoon shovelling had a worse time of it on Sunday morning – the freezing rain from the night before was harder to remove from a clear sidewalk than from a layer of snow

    However, I would also point out that if the snow/ice is too hard to be removed, you’re allowed to put down sand/sawdust/etc. instead of clearing. So while I can understand that someone might not have time to race out at 6am to break up the ice, it doesn’t take long to at least spread some sand and go back to the ice later.

    NH, when you say walking “up” Hicks, do you mean north or south of Cranberry? Can’t speak for south of Cranberry, but for north, at least some people had been out by that time.

  • brooklynite

    I agree with “yo”

    I posted earlier this year about the doctor’s office that has it’s main entrance on Clinton St, but never shovels it’s property on Aitken place (which is almost half a block). They manage however to shovel their clinton side so that people can make it into their business, but forget about the rest.

    I hope the doctor falls one day getting to his car…. which also pisses me off that he parks there all the time.

  • Monty

    @nabeguy, during the last freeze the sidewalks that weren’t cleared by 9AM will still not cleared for two more days afterward and eventually melted on their own. My expectation is that most sidewalks will not be clear when I leave for work in the morning, but they should be when I get back in the evening.

  • cv

    I’m very saddened by all this — not at all what I expected when I moved here from Manhattan. I do have a question for those who grew up here, or lived here “back in the day”: were things different then? were neighbors concerned and courteous? Was it safer to walk around during the winter?

  • north heights

    Jeremy: Hicks between Clark and Pineapple.

  • AliG

    Sounds like the Fruits have it bad. Are there any rules about dogs pooping on the brownstone’s stoop where the owner has not cleared the ice? The top step should work..

  • No One Of Consequence

    in a bag, on fire… to help the ice melt, of course

  • nabeguy

    Jeremy, just to be clear, I said I neither condone or defend property owners who do not comply with the laws. Never in a million years would I be able to “justify” behavior on someone’s part that puts everyone, including their own financial well-being, in jeopardy.

  • In the Heights

    The very old clapboard house on the corner of Willow and Middagh is also a terrible offender. It is still a sheet of ice on both the Willow and Middagh sides.