Tuesday, September 27, 2022

On the Subject of Sidewalks

The Common Council ad hoc committee dedicated to solving the problem of Hudson's sidewalks met last night. The first official act of the committee was to draft and distribute with the water bills a letter informing property owners of their responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of the sidewalks adjoining their property. Interestingly, that letter seems not to be available anywhere on the City of Hudson website.

Last night, Councilmember Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward), who chairs the committee, laid out an action plan "for attacking a sidewalk law," a law inspired by the City of Ithaca's City Sidewalk Policy, which "moves away from burdening individual property owners with the entire cost of sidewalk installation and maintenance for sidewalks adjoining their property, toward the creation of 5 Sidewalk Improvement Districts (SID) funded by an annual sidewalk assessment fee." The action plan proposed by Merante involves three parts:

(1) Identifying the Sidewalk Improvement Districts in Hudson.
It was suggested that the five wards could be the SIDs in Hudson. It's a simple solution, but it doesn't seem quite right. The ward boundaries in Hudson are now based on population. As a consequence, the geographic area of the wards differs significantly, as does the amount of sidewalk in each ward.

(2) Figuring out how to prioritize districts or areas within districts.
Merante suggested that they develop a system of rating sidewalks using numbers, with the highest being for sidewalks that are most used and in the worst condition. Councilmember Vicky Daskaloudi expressed the opinion that assessing all the sidewalks is "a lot of work." Merante suggested they might seek volunteers to do the assessment.

(3) Figuring out how the sidewalk assessment fee would work. 
It was decided that this issue would be handled by Councilmembers Ryan Wallace (Third Ward), who was absent from the meeting, and Amber Harris (Third Ward). 

Although the committee is pursuing a plan to "move away from burdening individual property owners with the entire cost of sidewalk installation and maintenance for sidewalks adjoining their property," Daskaloudi seemed to stay focused on ways to get individual property owners to repair or replace their sidewalks. She suggested that there should be a law "giving people sixty days to fix their sidewalks" after purchasing a building. She commented, "I see some properties that are selling for a million, two million dollars, and they're not fixing the sidewalks, and it really makes me angry." Toward the end of the meeting, mayor's aide Michael Hofmann offered the information that in other communities sidewalk improvement is required of the seller before a deed transfer is issued.    

The entire meeting can be viewed on YouTube.

On the subject of sidewalks, I have a personal observation. For the first time in almost nine years, I've been doing a lot of walking in my neighborhood with my dog, Joey. Our regular ambles are on the south side of town, usually between Second and Fourth Streets, and it has been my observation that there are very few sidewalks that could pass muster. The most egregious sidewalk issue we have encountered lately, though, is not uneven or broken or missing sidewalks but this stoop which juts out so far onto the public way that there's only about two feet of sidewalk between the stoop and the curb and even less between the stoop and a utility pool. 

A check of the tax rolls revealed that this house is owned by the Galvan Foundation.


  1. I walked past that stoop a few days ago, noticing the absurdity of it. The pole needs to be, and could be, moved closer to the corner. The stairs aren't going anywhere else.

    In terms of the committee's latest efforts: This, too, shall fail. Just like the previous committee's efforts. It's all wasted effort and too much talk among amateurs. When no department heads (DPW, Code, etc) are involved directly in the committee, there is no way it can succeed.
    Of course there's no copy on the city website of the silly letter the committee penned: You think Rob Perry, Kamal Johnson or Craig Haigh truly care about the safety of our sidewalks? The answer is no.

    Glad to hear you are out braving the sidewalks, Carole. It's not a walk in the park. Lots of missing curb ramps in your area.
    Bill Huston

    1. You are wrong about the steps not going anywhere else. They have not always been in this position. This is a precast concrete stoop that for some reason, at some point, has been pulled forward away from the house. If you had looked more closely, you would have seen that some kind of wooden platform has been added to connect the stoop to the house.

    2. Well, you got me there, Carole. But still, our Code Department won't do a thing about it, especially since it is GALVAN'S property.

  2. This is a conversation that seems to have no end. The task of creating districts and assessing the sidewalk inventory seems a bit more than the City can realistically undertake. Heck, we can't even get past the conversation! Why not just enforce the rules already in place? For those who cannot afford it, perhaps we seek CDBG or other grant funding (or maybe the housing trust fund?). The solution seems a bit easier than the City makes it out to be...