Perpendicular yellow lines to dig safely

What do YOU call the strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb?

Dig safely New YorkOne evening late last month, my wife and I noticed lights from a utility truck. Soon, two guys in uniform are on our lawn.

The next morning I noticed they had sprayed perpendicular yellow lines from the middle of our lawn to the sidewalk, then in the grassy berm. They’ve placed little yellow flags indicating where our utility company, National Grid, had determined there are gas lines.

(Sidebar: what do YOU call the strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb?)

What are they doing? I email the utility because you really can’t find anyone to talk to unless you smell gas or the power’s out or they’re cutting off service.

The next day I receive this message: “We were notified by Dig Safe to mark where our service is. Please call – NY – Call 811 or 1-800-962-7962 (Dig Safely NY) to see why the lines needed to be marked.”

Curiosity got me, so I made the call. The woman to whom I spoke did say that someone had requested the action but was reticent about saying who. Finally, she looked up our address to tell us it was the city of Albany. “They’re checking to see if they can use a wood chipper there.”

Interesting. There’s no tree on our property line, but the ROOTS of the tree just to the north DOES have obvious roots in front of our house. And the tree DOES have branches that can get tangled in the overhead wires.

Moreover, the berm on the adjacent property is also marked off. It would be a real shame to lose that large oak, which provides shade on our house. It would, as my wife put it, “change the climate.”

But she suggested another scenario. Maybe the city of Albany is going to fix our sidewalk, again. Back in 2012, they paved the sidewalk of five residences, the last of which is ours.

Ever since, it has drained poorly only in front of our house. When it rains, our sidewalk is a lake. When it’s cold, the lake turns into an ice pond. Vigilant snow removal, followed by melting and refreezing, turns the walkway into an ice rink.

My wife has bugged the city officials at least every other year, with at least one city official acknowledging that our sidewalk was constructed in a way that it’s the lowest point on the block. It was done by a contractor the city doesn’t use anymore, but there were other priorities before our redo.

Could the periodic lake in front of our house disappear forever? It would be a happy day! The tree scenario is far more likely. Hey, maybe they’re doing both.