On Thursday, for the second time this month, the Troy branch of the Capital District Democratic Socialists of America organized a snow-shoveling event in the city’s North Central and Lansingburgh neighborhoods.
The effort was meant not only to make sidewalks, bus stops, and curb cuts safe for pedestrians but to “highlight neglect by landlords and lack of public investment in working class communities,” according to a press release. North Central roughly corresponds with Census Tract 404—“the most distressed in the Capital Region,” according to the most recent annual report of the Troy Community Land Bank.
“We support city workers!” Matthew Sekellick, chair of the Troy branch (and a past contributor to The Alt), said in a release. “But they don’t have the resources they need. We want to change that.”
Snow accumulation was not as dramatic as anticipated earlier in the week (“It’s really a story about climate change,” one participant joked), but there was still work to be done. After meeting at Freedom Square, located at 101st St. and 5th Ave., volunteers armed with shovels fanned out in multiple directions.
Troy’s city code says that property owners or occupants must clear sidewalks “before the hour of 10:00 a.m. next following any day or night in which any snow shall have fallen.” If removal isn’t feasible, sprinkling “ashes or sand” suffices. Violators are subject to $75 fines. New tickets can be issued every 72 hours, if the snow still hasn’t been removed.
Reached Thursday afternoon, the city’s code enforcement office told The Alt that property owners are typically warned before being issued a ticket. This winter, tickets have been issued, the office said, but a number couldn’t immediately be provided.
“We applaud local residents for stepping up and lending a hand to assist their neighbors during the winter season,” Troy Mayor Patrick Madden said in a statement through a spokesman. “The administration is committed to ensuring our community is open and accessible for residents of all ages and abilities through effective enforcement measures that deliver results for our neighborhoods.”
City councilperson Anasha Cummings was among the volunteers who showed up to help. Asked why he attended, he replied, mid-shovel: “To clean snow off the ground.”
The Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, has more than 100 chapters across the country and nearly a dozen in New York. The organization’s national office identifies its top priorities as expanding Medicare, strengthening unions, and electing “openly democratic socialist” and “anti-corporate” progressive candidates to local political office. Its membership has dramatically increased since the 2016 presidential election.
The Capital District DSA chapter has nearly 200 members, Sekellick told The Alt. Its Troy branch will hold a public meeting on March 22 at the Oakwood Community Center at 6:30 P.M., where future organizing efforts—like a free brake light repair clinic, an idea popularized by the New Orleans chapter—may be discussed, according to a Facebook event.