One of the things I love about living in the Rye Brook/Port Chester area is I can walk to everything I need and/or want: local grocery stores, the post office and library, hardware store, pizza shops, Metro North, and even a major live music venue are all just steps from my home! The luxury to walk should feel even sweeter now, what with all of this snow and ice everywhere. Parking on these snowy streets is a nightmare and I'm happy to leave my car home until Spring.
That being said, lately I am so disappointed with the snow removal on the sidewalks of both Rye Brook and Port Chester. On Thursday, Feb. 20, I walked from my apartment near the corner of Westchester Ave and North Ridge St. to the Port Chester Metro North Train Station. It was the warmest day in weeks and I was happy to get out and move around after so much snow! As I approached the Bowman Ave. intersection the sidewalk on the south side of Westchester Ave. was impassable! It was a strip of bumpy, week-old ice! After attempting to maneuver in my Converse sneakers for about 20 feet, I decided that, rather than risk my life on the ice, I would risk my life on the dry road, foolishly walking with my back to speeding traffic. I had no choice: there was no way to cross the road through or over snow banks before reaching the crosswalk, over 100 yards ahead.
At the corner of Westchester Ave. and Regent St. I was finally able to cross the road with caution (I cannot use the word "safely."). I was appalled to see that none of the wheelchair accessible sections of the sidewalk had been shoveled: they were all buried under the mountains of dirty plowed snow. As I descended the hill, passing the Carver Center, Knights of Columbus, the library and Post Office, block after block posed similar treacherous pedestrian issues.
I thought for sure the Metro North Station would be clear of ice, but of course, I was wrong. At the corner of Broad St. and Westchester Ave. a construction crew was tearing up the concrete alongside El Tio restaurant. "No problem," I thought to myself, "I'll cross the street and walk alongside the Metro North parking lot." Impossible. The sidewalk adjacent to the lot had never even been cleared: another mountain of snow. So, back into the street I veered, dangerously walking with traffic, up to the station entrance. Some might ask, "Why didn't you walk under the overpass and up the steps to the platform?" In case you're wondering: the sidewalk under the overpass was a bumpy sheet of filthy ice. Once I bought my ticket, I stood on the southernmost section of the platform and watched person after person clumsily try to approach and read the map route at the bus stop below me. (I took a picture).
Throughout the afternoon I wondered, "How are families with baby carriages, shopping carts and small children navigating these sidewalks and streets? How is anyone confined to a wheel chair or who had a hip replaced getting around in Rye Brook and/or Port Chester? How many people, young and old alike, have hurt themselves traversing these sidewalks going to work, school, religious services, shopping and visiting relatives? Sadly, the answer is probably: dozens.
Port Chester and Rye Brook governments: YOU CAN DO BETTER. Were those landlords along the south side of Westchester Ave. ticketed for not clearing the ice from the sidewalks in front of their properties? I hope so. Was Metro North given a summons for not shoveling the sidewalks surrounding the station? I hope so. Do you have a plan to do a better job shoveling and de-icing the sidewalks that homeowners are not responsible for the next time it snows? I hope so!
The thing is, these impassable sidewalks are evidence of complete disrespect for the people of our communities who walk or take the bus rather than drive a car. Those of us who choose the more environmentally friendly route are punished with lazy sidewalk snow removal and slick conditions. The roads have been clear for days, and it's relatively safe to drive around these streets. Why can't pedestrians be shown the same respect?
There are things we can do right now to make our sidewalks safer during the Winter. Why not organize a community service effort for our high school students in Rye Brook and Port Chester? Groups of students can be assigned to shovel and clear small sections of high foot-traffic areas along Westchester Ave. after school. The villages can provide shovels, or students can bring their own if they have one. Maybe the local Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, or other local coffee shop or deli can give vouchers for hot cocoa for those who participated. The sidewalks will get shoveled properly and students will gain some pride knowing they helped people be safer in their communities.
Our towns have done a pretty good job keeping up with snow removal on the our roadways this winter. Now it is time for the towns to show some respect and care for those of us who use the sidewalks.