The repaving process has already begun, as county crews were out in full force on Sunday, March 8, halting traffic on the northbound side of the Meadowbrook Parkway in order to repair the particularly pot-marked thoroughfare. That scene will play out across the county as the snow melts to reveal treacherous conditions on roads, sidewalks and in parking lots.
The manager of La Venezia Pizza on Jericho Turnpike in Syosset said the lack of parking spaces is taking a slice out of his store’s bottom line.
“It’s definitely making business difficult…a lot of the offices around here are closing for the snow days, and it’s really hurting lunch,” said Peter, who chose not to provide a last name. “We also deliver, but it’s really tough doing that in this weather as well.”
He believes the county is doing the best it can to clean up following the snow storms.
“Cleaning up snow at a time like this is very important, and I think Nassau County is doing the best they can,” he said. “It’s not an easy job with all this snow. As for sidewalks, I don’t really know…I’m here all day, and we handle cleanup ourselves, but I suppose someone should be cleaning public sidewalks to make it safe for people to get around, and if the county owns them, the county should be cleaning them up.”
For Town of Oyster Bay homeowners, the question of whose responsibility it is to clear snow from sidewalks on the side and behind homes just got a little easier to answer. Baron Law Firm, PLLC, based in East Northport, recently represented a homeowner in a case where a pedestrian was struck by a car while she walked on Old Country Road in Plainview in 2011. According to court papers, the pedestrian was forced to walk onto the Nassau County-owned roadway because snow and ice that had been plowed from the roadway by the county made the sidewalk impassable.
After the accident, the pedestrian sued the driver, as well as homeowners from three different residences, and Nassau County for the injuries she sustained. The county’s legal counsel argued that the county was not liable because the homeowners were ultimately responsible for clearing snow on the side and behind their homes. However, in reviewing the Town of Oyster Bay’s town code, Michael Newman, an associate at Baron Law Firm and attorney for one of the homeowners, found that the county was incorrectly presenting its case.
Newman said that Oyster Bay Town Code §205-2 explicitly states “Each owner and occupant of any house or other building … in the Town shall keep the sidewalk in front of the lot or house free from obstruction by snow or ice and icy conditions.”
“Because the code neglects to impose a duty on a homeowner to maintain the sidewalks on the side of or behind one’s home, the county owed the duty to maintain the subject sidewalk, not the homeowners,” said Newman, adding that Justice Denise Sher of the Nassau County Supreme Court ruled that the homeowners were not responsible for the pedestrian’s injuries as a matter of law. “Prior to this, it wasn’t necessarily clear who was responsible to clear the side and rear sidewalks of snow and ice. Now we know that in the Town of Oyster Bay, homeowners are only responsible for clearing snow and ice from the front of their homes.”
Newman said the town would have to rewrite its code if they want to make homeowners responsible for clearing sidewalks on the side(s) and/or rear of their homes. Jeff Baron, owner of Baron Law Firm, said that action would likely create an unreasonable burden for homeowners, particularly those who live the middle of the block with a sidewalk running behind the rear of their lot.
“That result would be absurd” said Baron, adding that he found it ironic that Nassau County’s lawyers, who are essentially paid by its taxpaying homeowners, were trying to shift the burden of responsibility from the county to the individual homeowners. “It was stated in black and white that it is not the homeowners’ responsibility. And to make matters worse, it was the county’s own plowing methods that allegedly caused the sidewalk obstruction in the first place.”
“The county was wrongfully trying to push this burden off onto its homeowners”, said Baron. “They were attempting to abdicate their own legal responsibility to clear the sidewalks. The court found in our favor and it was, of course, no shock. Front means front.”
— With Additional Reporting By Chris Boyle