Ridge Councilman wants to boost fines on chain retailers who don’t shovel sidewalks

Ridge Councilman wants to boost fines on chain retailers who don’t shovel sidewalks
Office of Councilman Justin Brannan

Snow me the money!

Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) wants to boost fines on chain retailers that don’t clear the sidewalks in front of their storefronts after major snowstorms.

Following last week’s “bomb cyclone” that dumped a foot of snow the borough, Brannan said major retailers have no excuse to leave ice and snowdrifts blocking the sidewalk in front of their shops and when so many mom-and-pop business owners found a way to shovel their portions of their pedestrian stomping grounds.

“After it snowed on Thursday last week, there was no excuse for there to still be snow and ice outside storefronts a few days later,” Brannan said in a statement. “If small business owners can shovel their sidewalk after a storm, then a chain store or bank with multiple storefronts can surely hire a company to do it whenever there’s a storm.”

The city administrative code requires every “owner, lessee, tenant, occupant, or other person” responsible for a property to clear a path free of snow and ice from the sidewalks adjacent to their properties within four–14 hours after the end of the snowfall, depending on when the flakes stop falling, according to the Department of Sanitation.

If businesses or landlord don’t clear their sidewalks, first-offense fines range from $100–$150, and third and subsequent offenses can bring finds up to $350, according to the sanitation agency. For mom-and-pop shops, that’s a significant hit, so most are quick to garb the shovel. But for a major corporate tenant, the paltry penalty is sometimes just written off as a cost of doing business.

Brannan’s bill would hike first-offense fines to $1,000 and up, with third and subsequent offenses costing of up to $5,000, but only for large retail chains and franchise owners with ten or more locations throughout the city. The legislation would make sure big chain retailers do their fair share of wintry cleanup without putting undue burdens on small business owners, according to Brannan.

“Failing to shovel your sidewalk creates a dangerous situation that puts pedestrians at risk, especially our many senior citizens,” he said. “If these large national retailers and banks aren’t responsible enough to do their jobs as property owners, then the city needs to take steps to increase penalties and enforcement.”

And Brannan warned that district’s chain retailers which ignore their snowy and slippery sidewalks won’t just suffer a financial cost, but a reputational one as well.

In the vein of Public Advocate Letitia James’s “Landlord Watchlist,” Brannan vowed to publish an online “Shovels of Shame” list to call out the nabe’s repeat sidewalk offenders.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.