Students, community members concerned over sidewalk quality

Students, community members concerned over sidewalk quality

Local parent Rex Giordine spoke in front of the Syracuse City School Board to voice his concerns over the deteriorating sidewalks surrounding the schools and city.
Published: December 3, 2019
Sidewalk quality is especially a concern around city schools and the university, where they are well tread and weathered.
Sidewalk quality is especially a concern around city schools and the university, where they are well tread and weathered.

Rex Giordine is sick of the cracked sidewalks.

He’s sick of tree roots breaching the surface like a volcano, obliterating the sidewalk and making it hazardous to travel on. And most of all, he’s sick of nobody doing anything about this problem, specifically the Syracuse City School Board.

Giordine, a Syracuse citizen and parent, decided to voice his bubbling anger toward the city’s sidewalk deterioration at the most recent school board meeting, where he begged the board to fix the sidewalks in front of their schools.

“The sidewalks need to be safe for passage, but nobody wants to step up and fix them,” Giordine said outside his car moments after his impassioned speech directed at the board. “These are heavily travelled, some of the toughest sidewalks around. The conditions….”

He trailed off, clearly disturbed just thinking about them.

During his speech and ensuing interview, Giordine remained enraged and concerned that the school board seemed negligent toward the sidewalk quandary.

“Think of somebody on crutches, wheelchair, strollers, blind, you should be able to walk with confidence on a sidewalk,” Giordine said. “It’s the property owner’s responsibility. It’s sad when my sidewalks look safe, but those in front of the school do not.”

The sidewalks in areas surrounding Syracuse University are also troublesome to students, specifically on Crouse and Marshall Street.

“I worry about the cracks and bumps, and especially when it snows,” SU senior Ryan First said. “I really wish somebody would pay closer attention to the sidewalks near school, because they get overlooked.”

The matter of maintaining sidewalks has been a hot-topic in Syracuse as instances have popped up of residents suddenly incurring massive charges related to their sidewalk conditions. One such occasion in 2014 involved the city charging Syracuse resident Kimberly Newton $17,000 to replace the substandard sidewalks in front of her house.

“It is what it is,” Newton said at the time, per Tim Knauss of The Syracuse Post Standard. But citizens such as Giordine are looking to make change.

Giordine’s comments to the board did not go unnoticed, but some members confessed the situation was out of their control after the session dispersed.

“Realistically, we only have so much money, so we can’t do everything, but I think we are doing the best that we can,” said Commissioner Dan Romeo.

Romeo, who also works for the city as a firefighter, clarified that he was not disagreeing with Giordine’s point, but that Giordine was voicing his concerns to the wrong people.

“I’m not fundamentally disagreeing with what he said, I just think that there are a lot of needs that we have, and we do replace some sidewalks, but we can’t replace them all because it’s just not realistic for us financially,” Romeo said. “I hope the sidewalks go well, but the sidewalks are a city thing.”

The city certainly has their regulations, which stipulate sidewalks should not have step separation, cracks, detached fragments, settled areas that trap water, tree root damage and vegetation issues, according to the Department of Public Works. The board’s superintendent, Jamie Alicea, offered some hope for Giordine, while also stating that the school has already renovated Nottingham and Bowers schools.

“We have a plan to renovate all sidewalks in the city around the schools,” Alicea said. “Every year, we have to budget and get approval from the board.”

The result of all the squabbling? Giordine is still frustrated while the board does what they can within their budget constraints.

“There’s no excuse for a school having poor sidewalks,” Giordine said. “The board needs to pay attention to their school sidewalks. If their sidewalks are the worst, how do they expect homeowners to step up? If the school looks terrible, why should I fix mine?”