SeeClickFix the neighborhood

Sidewalk obstruction

worst neighborsI haven’t complained about some of my neighbors lately. So I was actually thrilled that someone else took on the challenge.

Like many other locales, the city of Albany uses the SeeClickFix system. The site claims it “is the best 311 request service for increasing citizen engagement, ensuring that every voice is heard and nothing gets lost or overlooked.”

It takes complaints about sidewalk repairs, signs missing, overgrown trees, noise complaints, and the like, and they get reported in Albany to the Office of General Services. I reported a WALK sign that somehow was skewed 90 degrees from the way it should have been, and it was eventually fixed.

Someone, not me, reported one of my immediate neighbors –  this one. Under the category Property Maintenance (Overgrowth/Grass and Weed Mowing), the notice: “Hedges consuming half the sidewalk forcing Parents/Elementary students onto the grass.” Very true. I’ll note that this has been a problem for most of the past decade. I’ve been tempted to take my clippers and cut them myself.

A few days, ANOTHER complaint of that same neighbor; Illegal Trash, specifically “Broken glass piles on sidewalk and grass.” Yup.

Incidentally, the residents had a party there recently, which was fine. But then they threw a bunch of trash, but also tree branches, and returnable soda cans into OUR garbage can. I had to sort through the rubbish.

Foghorn

Then there’s the across-the-street neighbor – this one. She was screaming at a man of her acquaintance. She said she wasn’t mad at him for making another woman pregnant, because she blamed the other woman. But she was so loud that two of our neighbors, from their respective houses on both sides of the street, told her to shut up. Her response in each case was obscenity.

The man goes into the house, then gets into a car and leaves. Shortly thereafter, the police show up. She talks with them, very calmly for her. And she files a report that the man has stolen her car.

Understand that I can hear and observe this across the street and two houses down, sitting on my front porch. It’s almost like watching theater, but the script really needs work.

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.