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By: Adam McManus

Sidewalks are the pedestrian thorough fares of the City of New York. Like all NYC traffic, these can also be at a crawl pace and have their own grid lock. At certain times of the day there can be significant sidewalk traffic, as it is also the case for certain times of the year, such as holidays.

While walking down the streets of Manhattan during the morning hours, it is common to have building owners and business employees clearing and cleaning the sidewalks with a power washer or perhaps a garden hose, broom and a sudsy detergent. It is also common to see workers with scrapers or professional cleaning machines, mechanically removing chewing gum, animal pet droppings and similar typical street “goodies”.

Winter is here and so is the snow and ice.  It is the law that sidewalk owners maintain their sidewalk space adjacent to their property to be clear of snow and ice and other tripping hazards. According to the New York City Department of Sanitation, property owners must clear the sidewalks within 4 hours if snow stops falling between 7 a.m. and 4:49 p.m.; and the statute also states that sidewalks must be cleared before within 14 hours if snow stops falling between 5 p.m. and 8:59  p.m.; likewise, snow and ice must be cleared by 11:00 a.m. the next day if there is snowfall between 9 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. There are a slew of attorney’s that market their services for slip and fall scenarios in NYC. For this reason, property owners have many incentives to keep their sidewalks maintained during the winter.

As a general rule of thumb, most of the New York City sidewalks are concrete, some are granite, some brick and even fewer are cobblestone. A deicer is typically a sodium chloride-based product that is spread like chicken feed as it is broadcast onto the ground; it is meant to be used as an anti-ice prevention. The chlorides cause a phenomenon referred to as freezing point depression; salts can perform as an effective ice destabilizer above approximately 16 degrees Fahrenheit with the snow.

Unfortunately, there are many deicers that are quite harsh on the typical concrete sidewalks as well as other masonry surfaces and vegetative plant life. According NYC Landmarks winter tips, potassium-based and magnesium-based deicers are known to provide less chlorides than the calcium and rock salt type deicer; therefore, these are considered more environmentally acceptable.  There are liquid deicers on the market that provide chloride free alternatives. Since traction is an important part for a walking surface, sand may be added for that effect.

Full metal or metal tipped shovels are the most effective for mechanical removal of ice and hardened snow; however, these tools can easily damage the concrete surface over the course of a winter. Scaling, cracking and spalling are common affects of concrete exposure to the deicers;  the aggregate surface below, and the finish can be damaged or destroyed in the process of performing winter maintenance.

No matter the weather conditions, dogs are walked year-round. The paws of the animals can be very sensitive to the deicing salts. It was recently brought to our attention that there are pet sensitive formulas that are more favorable with dog paws. Mr. Faruk Karce of 40-50 East 10th Street has offered guidance in the manner that he maintains his sidewalk that is just a few years old. According to Faruk, he uses only plastic shovels with no metal tips. In his quest to preserve the integrity of the sidewalk finish, he has also incorporated a pet safe deicer with a formula that is also proven to be a more gentle formula on the concrete.

The holiday season is upon us, hence the foot traffic in the city is likely going to pick up in various areas. As property owners keep an eye on the forecast, the shovels are ready and the deicers are stocked up in the storage rooms. To those who maintain their sidewalks all winter, it is a thankless job, but all pedestrians benefit from the due diligence in sidewalk maintenance all winter long.

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Sullivan Engineering provides high-quality building envelope restoration and compliance solutions.

We partner with facilities managers and account executives to provide technical expertise and project management for building envelope restoration, compliance, and maintenance.

Our solutions reduce the overall building life cycle maintenance costs by creating long-lasting, high-quality work for years to come.