Thursday, October 8, 2015

Contemplating Sidewalks

Photo: Chad Weckler
These days, walkability is a valued and sought after quality for communities. It brings many benefits. The ones usually cited are improved fitness and reduced risks of certain health problems, cleaner air, and a greater sense of community. For Hudson, there are couple more benefits. Encouraging walking can ease the city's growing and often complained about parking problems. The city's walkability also makes it more desirable as a destination. Visitors can arrive by train and don't need a car once they are here.

Any checklist designed to rate a city's walkability usually begins with assessing walking paths and sidewalks. Do they exist? Do they stop and start? Are they broken or cracked? By this measure of walkability, Hudson doesn't score very high. There are places where there are no sidewalks. There are places where sidewalks stop and start. But mostly, there are cracked and broken sidewalks, and, perhaps unique to Hudson, there are places where the sidewalk in front of one building is dramatically higher than the sidewalk in front of the next building. Gossips did a study of the latter phenomenon in April 2012, and the situation has not improved since.

Yesterday, during the debate between the mayoral candidates on WGXC, one of the questions submitted by a listener asked if either of the candidates would address the problem of sidewalks in his or her first 100 days in office.

Mayor William Hallenbeck responded by saying he'd been addressing the issue of sidewalks since he became mayor in 2012. He spoke of individual property owners fixing their sidewalks, citing in particular the "beautiful new sidewalks" at TSL. He also spoke of how he had "changed the culture" of the code enforcement office.

Photo: Mark Orton
In her response, Tiffany Martin Hamilton spoke of finding a way to carry out a City initiative that would replace all the sidewalks in designated areas of the city at one time, allowing individual property owners to pay for their part of the new sidewalks over time in their property taxes. She acknowledged that there were challenges to making such a plan work but asserted, "We can't turn our backs on things because they are difficult."

In his rebuttal, the mayor said that he didn't see why the City should try to fix sidewalks when it's the individual property owners' responsibility.

The pictures that accompany this post, which show some examples of the extreme (and extremely treacherous for pedestrians) height variation between new sidewalk and older sidewalk, provide evidence of why offloading the responsibility for public sidewalks to individual property owners, which may be as unique to Hudson as the weighted vote, isn't working very well.



  1. The sidewalks in Hudson are, collectively, and largely individually, in explicit violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law which has enjoyed no enforcement in our city, due to the Department of Justice having uniquely seceded jurisdiction in most of New York State to the 2nd Circuit, which has other fish to fry.
    The city sidewalks, despite being the responsibility of individual property owners under a pre-ADA era code, are subject to the requirements of the ADA regardless.
    The city cannot hide behind its arcane code to shield itself from federal ADA liability.
    Talk to you Aldermen and your mayoral candidates about this issue.
    This is a ticking time bomb.
    ADA lawyers are actively engaged in preliminary strategies on the best way to bring Hudson into compliance.
    As a footnote, City Hall is in flagrant violation of the ADA. While mitigation is affordable and easy, the city, which has been put on notice by a federal agent, has done nothing to provide basic accessibility to the disabled despite clear instructions.
    We should all, as citizens, hang our heads in shame.

  2. As a walker the sidewalks in Hudson have always been troubling to me. Beyond ADA compliance and the general indolence of city government on this issue, there is the issue of our capacity to enforce our own codes. The sidewalk leading up to the hospital is an example cited by me earlier,, of a code enforcement asleep at the wheel. Mark Orton

  3. The hospital fixed them, by hand, yesterday.