ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — You’ve likely seen it or experienced the frustration: pedestrians forced to walk along busy roadways because the sidewalks haven’t been cleared after a snowstorm. Well, there’s a band of volunteers better known as the “Shovel Brigade” working to make sidewalks safer.
Andrew Neidhardt founded a group called “Walkable Albany” four years ago. The organization advocates for pedestrian safety and walkability in Albany, and one of their ongoing winter projects is called the “Shovel Brigade.”
After each snowstorm, Andrew puts the word out online and he and other Shovel Brigade volunteers gather, getting to work clearing sidewalks and crosswalks. Of course, city crews plow the streets, but the snow often has nowhere else to go but back onto the sidewalks.
“I never really picked up on that until we had our kids,” said Andrew. “You know, we would take them in the stroller to daycare and I started realizing, I have to walk in the street.”
In Albany, the responsibility is on property owners to clear the sidewalks outside their buildings. If they don’t, they face fines. But in a city with plenty of non-owner-occupied buildings, the work isn’t always done or done sufficiently. Just ask Latesha Sawyer and her dog Pepper. “Well, my landlord is extremely old, and I understand, like she can’t be out here. But she’s also extremely cheap, so she should have somebody out here doing it,” she said.
Another issue is vacant buildings, says Andrew. “And those are also the communities that don’t have access to cars and where people are walking the most to begin with.”
Want to join the Shovel Brigade? Andrew says you can contact them online. All you need is a good pair of boots, a shovel and some elbow grease.