Unless it is of colossal dimensions, a heavy snowfall like those that usually fall in January and February especially, hardly interrupts daily activity in New York, a city well prepared by force of habit to face harsh winters.
It is surprising to see how, the morning after a snowfall, the sidewalks are clear, and at the main crossings and traffic lights, passageways have been opened for pedestrians, in a city where this biped category abounds.
The New York Department of Sanitation, a force responsible for garbage collection and street cleaning with seasonal workers added when it snows, has 36 snowplows capable of melting 60 to 120 tons per hour. . But the miracle of cleaning the sidewalks is not in charge of the authorities, but the citizens.
It is the responsibility of doormen, those in charge of maintenance of the buildings, associations of owners or owners of establishments at street level to clear a corridor of at least four feet wide (1.2 meters), as well as remove the accumulation of snow or ice from their facade to avoid accidents of the neighbors (law firms, always on the side, remember that they can report any fall).
If they let the snow pile up, they can be fined between $ 100 and $ 250 (about € 82 to € 205). And they must also do it scrupulously in three time slots. If the snow falls, for example, during the daytime — between seven in the morning and five in the afternoon — cleaning cannot take more than four hours. If it falls at night, between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., the sidewalks must be clear by 11 a.m.
The trucks that spread salt (“the first line of defense”, as defined by the City Council) are ready to act even before the storm starts, especially in shady places that are more prone to freezing. The liquefied snow is drained through the sewer network.
And it is in the sewers where the worst hazards of the beautiful spectacle of snow in the Big Apple occur: unable to swallow so much water, their grids become bottomless pits, if not ice sheets, which complicate the existence of suffered a New York pedestrian.