“My office has a voluntary snow removal program, and one of the concerns they brought back was how the snow was going to get removed from the hydrants,” said Avella.
When the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) clears the city streets after a heavy snowfall, the plowed snow often buries curbside fire hydrants. Removing the snow and clearing the hydrant then becomes the responsibility of homeowners.
If it turns cold and freezes, it can be a difficult if not impossible chore for the elderly and others.
“My wife objected to me trying to clear the snow because I had a heart operation a couple of years ago,” said Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose Hillside Civic Association, outside his house on 242nd Street last week. “There are plenty of people who can't get out their front door when it snows, let alone shovel the hydrant.”
Avella said it is also a safety issue if the hydrants haven't been uncovered.
“Should there be a fire, firefighters have to spend five minutes finding the fire hydrant, and another five minutes digging it out,” he said.
Avella's legislation would require DSNY to clear the hydrants. Harry Nespoli, the head of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association Union Local 831, said his members were up to the task.
“It could just involve a second crew following the trucks,” said Nespoli. “I'm sure we could sit down with the new commissioner and work something out.”
While the Avella admitted it would come at a cost to the city, he said that shouldn't factor in.
“Whatever the cost, it would be minimal when it is evaluated next to the huge safety issue,” he said.