Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Okay, we have not had that many in the North East coast these last few years, but I’m sure most people would not complain about it too much.
Last winter my family and I were still in Queens. January and February had plenty of snow to spare for December and the rest of the winter. We had multiple inches accumulating at least twice during those months. And after it is all done, guess what? It’s time to clean it up. Raise your hand if you are excited about the prospects of digging your 200 ft long sidewalk!
No hands? Shocker! Well, you better put a smile on your face and soldier on, because the law is not on your side and you will have to go out and start shoveling. Yes, there is a city code, a set of rules and even a number that neighbor of yours can call to tell the world [anonymously] how your sidewalk still has not been cleared of snow. “Oh so what? What are they going to do, fine me?” The answer is yes, they will and they have been doing so for a while.
Welcome to NYC, stranger
The time for friendly warnings is long gone (if it ever existed to begin with). The price tag is $150 for the first offense and it escalates rapidly from there. You may choose to ignore it after a few offenses, but rest assured that the mayor will make sure you deal with it sooner or later. Choose not to pay for those violations at your own peril (and your credit score’s).
Oh, you are renting, right? Sidewalks are not something you worry much about because it is your landlord’s responsibility to take care of it. Feeling lucky so far? Well let’s see. Before a snow storm hits you have basically two options. Number 1: you pay to leave your car safely inside an indoors parking garage. Number 2: you find a parking spot on the street right outside your home. In reality your choices are either getting into a contract and spending hundreds of dollars every month just to park your vehicle or save the money but have your car stuck in the snow for days. Yes, because aside from the relentless snow fall the friendly snow plow truck will push the snow out of the road but right over your van and bury it even deeper. And then the weekend comes and you realize need to buy milk. There you go now spend your entire morning digging your ride out for a 20 minute trip to the supermarket, only to come back and find out that someone else parked in the same spot you spent 3 hours cleaning.
The Poconos are colder than New York, no question about it. As I write, the outside temperature is 39 degrees, but it feels like 32. The Financial District in New York sits right by the water, and its current temperature is 44 with a thermal sensation of 32 as well. That is usually not the case. The temperature is more often than not 10 degrees lower here, and the thermal sensation spread is around 5 degrees. That is in part due to the relative elevation. New York sits right at sea level whereas the Poconos are anywhere from 500 to 2,000 feet above it. My guess is that it doesn’t feel as cold here because it is also relatively less windy. But the bottom line is that before you come over, beware of that important difference.
Before our first winter here we knew things would be different in PA. Way different. My family and I were house-hunting in the Poconos in the middle of the prior winter. Among other things, I was surprised to notice that the majority of the houses had no sidewalks. That means a lot less maintenance during the roughest times of the year. It makes sense. Sidewalks are nowadays more like a bidet. Nobody uses it, it creates a lot more work for the owner and they ultimately stink. So the neighborhoods here are mostly free of these huge liabilities.
So far the winter has been relatively mild – it is December 31st as I write it. It snowed a few times, but only twice enough to accumulate a few inches of snow outside. Last time I cleaned the walkways and the driveway by myself in less than 30 min. No need to dig the car out since it was parked comfortably in our garage overnight. Free of charge!
Our house sits in a corner lot. Geometry is not my forte, but last I checked our 0.59 acre property would equal to somewhere around 1,000 feet of L-shaped sidewalks. That would take a few hours of very manual labor to clear after a blizzard. Alternatively, I would have to shell out a few hundred bucks on a heavy duty snow blower. A lot of money for something I would only use during the roughest parts of the winter. No thanks.
So our options are more like deciding “what to do you do with the time we DIDN’T spend shoveling snow?” My kids and I found a couple of sleds from the previous owner somewhere in our garage. They are perfect for us since our house also sits on a slope. So option one is spend hours sliding downhill. Option two is also helped by the inclination factor: building snowmen. There are a few more we can explore, but so far that’s about as creative as we got. Any other suggestions are more than welcome! But the following is going to be true no matter what we do: instead of cleaning up a sidewalk nobody will walk over anyway, we stay out and play until we are too tired of doing anything else.
It isn’t Christmas anymore, but that’s certainly closer to what Bing Crosby had in mind.