A Week Later, Questions On Digging Out

Paul Bass PhotoThomas Breen PhotoKate Bradley went door to door ahead of last week’s “bomb cyclone” that dumped a foot of snow to remind neighbors to move their cars to the even side of the street to make way for the plows.

The only problem: The plows never came to clear the snow.

Bradley told that tale Wednesday night to the city’s lone public space inspector, Honda Smith, at a monthly meeting of the Westville/West Hills Community Management Team meeting at Mauro-Sheridan School.

Smith hit two management team meetings this week — in Westville and the Hill — to hear from neighbors like Bradley about their experiences during the storm and to spread the word about rules for parking and clearing sidewalks when it snows.

“Psychologically, once you put people into that spot that they got to get their car off that odd side so the plows can come through and then you don’t [plow], the next time nobody is going to do it and the next 10 times nobody is going to do it,” Bradley told Smith.

“I’m the supervisor for out here,” Smith said. “I do apologize for my guys. I will make sure I cater to that area during the next storm.”

Smith has worked for the city for 29 years, 20 of those in the public works department, and is about 10 months away from retirement. So this could be her last snow season. She is making the rounds of community meetings to field questions not just about snow removal but about, for instance, how soon to get your trash cans out of the beltline before you’re at risk for a $250 fine.

She’s also asking neighbors to tell her where she might need to deploy her enforcement powers, which extend as she said, “from the back of the sidewalk to the middle of the street.”

One Westville neighbor pointed out Wednesday night that the city’s ordinance regarding the removal of trash and recycling bins from the curb makes it seem like you have to rush home after the morning pickup to put them away. Smith clarified the rules: Trash cans should be out no more than 10 hours before pick-up; they should be off the curb no more than 12 hours later.

But she also noted that given that she’s the only person in the entire city with the power to enforce the law and write tickets for such violations, it’s pretty hard to catch violators unless it’s egregious.

Paul Bass PhotoAt the most recent Hill North Management Team meeting Tuesday night, Lynda Faye Wilson said that the bus stops by the hospital were covered in snow that reached up to her knees. She demanded that the city do a better job clearing the bus stops.

“People in the city can’t seem to find out who owns the bus stops,” Smith responded. “The person who owns the bus stop is Connecticut Transit. They own the bus stop. and it’s their responsibility to clean the bus stops. We try to be good neighbors and try to help them out, but our first priority at the Department of Public Works is to clean the streets when it snows to make it passable and safe for all vehicles and pedestrians that travel across the streets.”

Smith also responded to a resident’s concerns about snow that had been pushed up in front of her driveway. 

“Now I hear a lot about snow in my driveway,” she said. “It’s gonna happen. I hate to say that, but it’s gonna happen. The city ordinance states that residents have to remove snow from their property 24 hours after snowfall, not during the snowstorm, because during the snowstorm what we’re doing is pushing the snow back to make sure that there’s no accidents on the streets, that the emergency apparatus can pass through the street safely and without any incidents.”

She said if people start removing snow before the snow has stopped falling. it makes it difficult for city workers to keep the street clean, especially if people are throwing that snow back into the street.

“That’s a $250 violation for throwing snow in the street during a storm,” she said. “It’s a $250 violation for not shoveling your sidewalks after [a] snowfall. Now we give you a courtesy, and I’m going to be real with you, I am the only inspector that enforces violations in the city of New Haven, for the whole city. But 29 years in this department taught me something. I know the law, and the law states that you have to do it.”
Paul Bass Photo

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posted by: mcg2000 on January 11, 2018  4:30pm

Only ONE inspector enforcing snow removal violations for the ENTIRE city of New Haven?  No wonder so many property owners get away with not clearing their sidewalks and SeeClickFix has a backlog of snow removal complaints where an acknowledgement by the Dept. of Public Works is the best response you’re going to get? Why can’t the City hire more inspectors and/or train more Public Works employees to
do inspections? The city will get cleaner sidewalks and bus stops and shelters and will make more money in fines.

posted by: Elmer Shady on January 11, 2018  7:03pm

Dateline: Snow Haven

Who else got the See Click Fix notice in your mailbox, asking you to clean your sewer drain because Public Works doesn’t have the resources.  Seems they always plow over everything….but they always do a great job at it…..

The City has no authority to make this request upon the citizenry, and SCF should be ashamed of using it’s reach to bully the public into doing the City’s job…

Cleaning the drains should be something that happens during street sweeping….in fact, Public Works should have the collected parking violations for street sweeping added into their budget, if they can’t afford to do the job they are responsible for…

Especially in the wake of the auto tax increase, how much more does the public have to shoulder for the City to be effective at it’s job….

posted by: Elmer Shady on January 11, 2018  7:12pm

Is the City going to pay for lawsuits when ordinary people get hurt doing the City’s Job….
The City of New Haven asked for the help without thinking the potential liability through once again….

posted by: new havener on January 11, 2018  7:54pm

Lets see…10 months from retirement, all Smith can do is promise to cater to 2 neighborhoods, the implication being that it comes at the expense of other neighborhoods, when finite resources are in play.

Further, for a city in financial difficulty, giving up $250 a pop for violations by not applying fines is leaving money on the table—-ridiculous. The ‘Public Space Inspector’ position could be doubled or tripled, and be revenue-positive, if they just did the job as it’s supposed to be done.

Give cops the ability to fine violators, they are on the road anyways.

posted by: fastdriver on January 11, 2018  9:09pm

NOW I know WHY the snow laws are not followed or enforced and sidewalks in my neighborhood still remain buried in snow. How ridiculous that ONE person is in charge of issuing tickets! Where are all those white traffic and parking authority Fords that harass the neighbors in the summer? WHY aren’t they out driving around and giving tickets? Clearing your sidewalk is more important then getting a ticket for blocking a sidewalk or parking too close to a corner etc. Many things in this city just don’t make sense!

Yesterday I had to go downtown to the Broadway area. I could NOT believe how AWFUL the plowing was around there and the streets surrounding YALE! Exactly what were they clearing downtown?

posted by: robn on January 11, 2018  9:47pm


Calling BS on you baby. Here’s the city ordinance that says citizens are supposed to keep nearby drains clear.

Sec. 27-33. - Ice, snow, sleet—Duty of abutting property owner to clean gutters and catch basin tops.
Every person having the care of any property abutting a paved gutter and catch basin top shall keep them free from snow, ice, sleet and any other substance so as to permit the free passage of water through them. Failure to comply with this section shall result in an infraction and a fine of one hundred dollars ($100.00), or an amount up to the maximum allowed under state statute. Each day that the violation continues shall constitute a separate offense.

posted by: fastdriver on January 11, 2018  10:54pm

Hey robn- what decade was that ordinance written? Just wondering?

posted by: pd093 on January 11, 2018  10:55pm

I have lived and worked in New Haven for decades. The city has never been able to plow the snow.  I went to mass at St. Mary’s Hillhouse Ave on Sunday 1/7/18. Temple St and Hillhouse Ave were horrible. All the streets turn into one lane roads. Public works makes one pass and never plows to the curb. The snow freezes into concrete. Year after year after year. How difficult is it to remove snow?

I think St. Mary’s and Yale should get together and do follow up street cleaning after snow storms as the city does not get it done. The horror of driving in New Haven in winter.

posted by: Nashstreeter on January 12, 2018  12:46am

Having all these rules and fines makes the city look like it has things under control. But people aren’t stupid, and it’s insulting to have them think that we are. We know a scam when we see one.
I think there’s only been one time in my 30-some years on Nash Street that the odd side has been plowed—even though nearly all of the odd street cars have moved over to the even side.  If the city is so worried about emergency vehicles being able to navigate the street, why don’t they widen it by plowing the vacant odd side?

posted by: Elmer Shady on January 12, 2018  1:11am


Thank you, Ordinance Man!

posted by: brownetowne on January 12, 2018  4:55am

Even if only one person is on the job of enforcement, how many tickets are actually issued for public space violations?  I get the sense that it’s close to zero when most of us would think it should be 2 or 3 each day, at least.

posted by: robn on January 12, 2018  7:40am

I don’t know how long the “clean your curb” ordinance has been in place but it’s not unreasonable or uncommon.

The Odd Side Parking during snowstorm policy has only been in place since winter 2010-11 when we got slammed with the first of a series of significant storms that the city wasn’t equipped to handle.


posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 12, 2018  8:04am

I actually think DPW did a good job in the immediate wake of the storm. But it has not taken advantage of the warmer weather to clear the remaining snow.

I’m from Chicago, where it snows a bit. The equivalent of DPW puts plows on garbage trucks, which allows them to do double duty.

posted by: William Kurtz on January 12, 2018  8:13am

I did not know that about Connecticut Transit being responsible for clearing the bus stops. It seems they are not meeting that obligation. Of course the roads need to be passable, but in a densely-populated urban area, with older adults, children, and many residents who do not own or use cars to get around it’s important to account for their transportation needs as well.

posted by: JCFremont on January 12, 2018  9:02am

The streets look great for the most part. For the owner of car AK-96626 are you waiting for the city to dig your car out or are you waiting for the spring thaw? Here’s a little common sense. If you can shovel while it’s snowing, yes the plows will keep coming through but the driveway wall will be much less than if you wait for the storm to end. The forecast was that a deep freeze would follow the storm. If you hadn’t started clearing you didn’t stand a chance.

posted by: robn on January 12, 2018  9:13am

The answer is pretty simple. Distribute the ticket in responsibility to citizens. SCF already is contracted by the city to provide an array of automated services.
Their community reports on unshovelled sidewalks (with a real time photo submitted by smartphone) can be simply automated into a ticket for the property owner. Then allow property owners an automated means of appeal which is then reviewed by that one city official to determine if the complaint was reasonable or not (reviewing a note and a photo shouldn’t take more than a minute). The original complaintant should also get the appeal decision to keep the city official honest (as opposed to doing political favors).

Like all new enforcement efforts I would expect a spike of ticketing in the beginning (just like there was with even side towing) and then a drop off after people learn their lesson.

The technology is already in place. Let’s use it.

posted by: Noteworthy on January 12, 2018  1:39pm

Another Snow Note:

1. Anybody who has not shoveled out their car - should have it towed.

2. Why is it that the city’s only policy is to ban parking on one side of the street which allows all the people on the other side of the street to stay put - which ends up creating problems? Why not ban parking on one side for one day - and ban parking on the other side the following day? That way the entire street gets cleaned?

3. Why not downtown, does the city not push all the snow from the sidewalks into the street - use the new snowblower to suck up all the snow and truck it away? It’s not that many streets - and that way the path to meters, to businesses remains clear all the way around?

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 12, 2018  2:10pm

Noteworthy, fire hydrants are typically on the odd side of the street.

posted by: RobotShlomo on January 17, 2018  5:14pm

So the plan is, and I’m just guessing here, to not plow and hope nobody sues? I thought the blizzard of 2013 was supposed to be a learning experience. Doesn’t seem like it. Listen, I’m not one of those anti-tax “small government guys. I understand why we taxes, it’s so that we have public services like trash removal, police, and SNOW PLOWS. But I’m starting to think the tea party guys have a point. For the amount of taxes paid in New Haven, there’s no excuse of this!! This is a failure from the top. There’s no other way to describe this. 

And if these types of storms are going to be more frequent from now on due to climate change, then can New Haven do one of two things, or possibly both; A) Send someone out to say Madison, WI or St. Paul, Minnesota and say “hey, if you don’t mind we’d like to take a look at your snow removal plan and your equipment, maybe we can adapt some of your ideas so we can do the job better than we’re currently doing it”.

And / or B) invest in snow melters. I’ve heard the excuse of “well, that water is going to go into the storm sewer and into Long Island Sound”. It’s going to go into Long Island Sound as run off anyway. You have a snow melter at Lighthouse Park, you truck the snow down there, and you melt it. At the very least you get parts of downtown cleared out, so parking isn’t a pain rear end.