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Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:36 pm, Thu Mar 6, 2014.

Officials eye higher fines, lower fines for not shoveling snow

The cost to property owners of not removing snow from sidewalks would go up under a bill before the City Council — and down, but only for some people, under a separate proposal.

Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) would raise the cost of not shoveling from its base of $100 to $250 or more, depending on the size of the property. His legislation would have city workers clear an unshoveled sidewalk and bill the offender, rather than just issue a ticket and leave the snow there. The increased revenue Greenfield expects to bring in would pay for hiring more temporary workers to clear public areas such as street corners.

The councilman said many neglected sidewalks are in front of abandoned or stalled construction sites, vacant houses and empty storefronts, and the resulting fines often go unpaid.

Public Advocate Tish James, on the other hand, would cut the fine by 50 percent for elderly and disabled property owners. James is not proposing legislation to reduce the penalties but is calling on the administration to just do it.

But she is also introducing a bill to employ both more paid snow removal workers and volunteers. One element would see the Department of Sanitation establish a program by which nonprofit groups would help remove snow in front of places where seniors and the disabled live. Cleared paths would have to be at least 40 inches wide to accommodate wheelchairs.

Easier to pay water bill

A new online option called DEP QuickPay, designed to make it easier to pay water bills, has been set up by the Department of Environmental Conservation. It is reached via nyc.gov/dep and can be used with smartphones and tablets as well as standard computers.

More cop radar guns

The Police Department will soon be using nearly five times as many radar guns to write speeding tickets than it does now, adding 200 to its inventory of 56, according to testimony given at a City Council hearing held Monday. Chief Thomas Chan, head of the NYPD’s Transportation Bureau, told lawmakers that traffic enforcement will be made a part of patrol officers’ daily tasks, media reports said.

The increased emphasis on speeding tickets is part of Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan, under which City Hall hopes to eliminate pedestrian deaths caused by motor vehicles.

At least one Queens lawmaker was skeptical about the NYPD’s plan, however. The New York Post quoted Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) as saying, “Let’s be honest: Recruits don’t sign up for the Police Academy in their minds to write speeding tickets.”

Trial set for cohort of Queens ‘Cannibal Cop’

The case against two men accused along with former NYPD Officer Gilberto Valle of planning to kidnap, rape, torture, kill and eat women has begun.

Jury selection started Monday in the federal trial of Michael Vanhise, 23, of Trenton, NJ, and Robert Christopher Asch, 61, of Manhattan, published reports say.

Valle, 29, of Forest Hills, was convicted in March 2013 on all charges but has yet to be sentenced. He faces possible life in prison.

The men allegedly discussed their plans online but never carried them out, though Valle used an NYPD database to get information on potential victims. The defendants’ lawyers say the online conversations were sexual fantasies their clients never intended to act upon.

Data on Airbnb rentals

A new study of Airbnb, the website where people rent out rooms for short stays, angering some neighbors, officials and civic leaders who say they’re running illegal hotels and not paying taxes, was recently released.

The analysis found that 88 percent of people posting on the site only have one space available, backing Airbnb’s claim that most of its users rent out rooms in their own homes. But 30 percent of the total spaces available are offered by those with multiple postings, supporting the critics’ claims. The study, which includes much more data, is posted at skift.com/tag/airbnb.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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