Many of us can't wait to see the back of winter, but for some the Arctic-like conditions that have gripped the city for the last few months have been a boon. Snow shovelers who charge $40 to $80 for clearing the front of a house have turned a tidy, tax-free profit. Some two-man crews in Crown Heights can clear half a city block pretty quickly, making in a few hours what would normally take few days.
Even established maintenance men have taken to outsourcing.
"I'm a business man," a 60-year-old building superintendent who lives on my block said as he counted a stack of 20s, while harboring a chesty cough. "Even when I can't shovel like now, 'cause I'm sick, the building owners still rely on me to get it done. I have a couple of guys that I give a few dollars to and take a commission."
The city's sanitation department has handed out 10,000 tickets this winter to landlords who have failed to clear snow from sidewalks. With slip-and-fall lawsuits a real danger, not shoveling hasn't been an option. As Noreasters arrived in twos and three over the course of the past few months, the cost has added up. If you missed the small window of opportunity to shovel before the snow turned to ice, the front sidewalk turned into a skating rink.
As rents and home prices continue their seemingly endless upward trajectory, outer borough landlords will soon emulate high-end Manhattan condos and hotels and get underground sidewalk heating systems installed. Price is currently a factor not only for installation and usage but permits, and there's a tedious approval process. I suppose it would be too much to ask the city for some kind of rebate program similar to solar panel usage? Perhaps ConEd could offer installation along with the annual fee paid to the city?
Whatever the process, just as individualized apartment heating and cooling has taken over from single furnace buildings, it's inevitable that New York's famously snowy sidewalks will soon melt away into bad memories.