f/k/a . . . the archives

January 14, 2009

schenectady’s slow learners on thin ice again

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 12:30 pm

.. photo by Albany Times Union/Skip Dickstein (+ ENLARGE)

Sometimes, it’s just too easy to poke fun at the City of Schenectady and its hard-working civil servants, so we try to stick with more challenging fare.   But, we can’t always resist the temptation to share the news:

For the second time in less than a year, a City Parks Department plow has plunged through the ice of Iroquois Lake, a man-made pond in our beautiful Central Park, which is used for ice skating, fishing (largemouth bass, bluegill), and paddle-boating. The “Lake” is only 7.2 acres in size, with a mean depth of 4.3 feet.  [See "City truck falls through ice in Schenectady," Daily Gazette, Jan. 14, 2009, with video of the retrieval; "Beware thin ice again," Albany Times Union, Jan. 14, 2009]  The truck was clearing snow to prepare for ice skating at the pond, which has been delayed this winter because an early layer of snow slowed down ice formation.  According to the Gazette, “No one was injured in the morning accident, but the city’s pickup truck sustained significant damage as it ended up fully submerged [in 14 feet of water] at the bottom of the pond.”

The Gazette has a full account, including the explanation of Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen, who insists that precautions were taken.  The article explains:

“Workers drilled a grid of 25 test holes to determine the ice thickness. Each hole revealed ice between 8 and 10 inches thick, enough to support the plow truck’s weight, Olsen said.

“The truck was also directed to stay away from the concrete edges, where ice thickness is less predictable. But where the truck went through about 10 to 15 yards from the nearest test hole, the ice proved to be 4 to 5 inches thick, not enough to support a pickup and plow blade.”

Lesson learned (we cautiously hope):

“Olsen said he hopes to get a lighter, older vehicle for the express purpose of plowing the lake. For now, he said they would use a ‘glorified golf cart’ with a plow blade to finish the job. The truck that tanked Tuesday had a book value of about $16,000, Olsen said; insurance may cover repairs.”

Perhaps our blawging-buddy insurance defense expert George Wallace, our favorite RiskProf Martin Grace, and Kevin Sheerin at the NY Civil Service Employment Law weblog, will help f/k/a‘s readers understand some of the issues raised when a civil servant is asked to perform such duties, and has an accident like this under circumstances where an issue of reasonable prudence arises.  Is the City’s insurance claim on thin ice?  Should heads roll?  Are bonuses or pink slips due?

.. In an editorial today titled “Put this rite of Schenectady winter to rest” (Jan. 14, 2009), the editors of the Schenectady Gazette opine that “The genius whose truck fell through the ice at Schenectady’s Central Park yesterday might be forgiven if the exact same thing hadn’t happened a year ago. But it did, of course.”  They want someone with “supreme authority” like the mayor to say “in no uncertain, terms: No more trucks on the ice.”

The editorial points out:

“Yesterday’s incident not only endangered the life of the driver, but the handful of men engaged in the subsequent rescue operation. It took them, the truck and the front-end loader sent to rescue it away from a more important task — cleaning city streets after the weekend snowstorm. If the relatively new truck that went through the ice isn’t a total loss as a result of damage from water and the salvage operation, it will surely be out of commission for weeks. The cost, even after insurance, seems likely to be in the thousands.”

And, suggests: “The city should use snowblowers or perhaps solicit trusties from the county jail for shoveling duty. But, please, no more trucks on the ice!”

In a comment at the Gazette, however, Your Editor pointed out that falling through ice repeatedly is an very old Schenectady Tradition, which we should perhaps be most reluctant to abandon.  As we explained in a post back in 2005:

One of the first examples involved trying to bridge the Mohawk River between the Stockade and Scotia [right at the end of my block of Washington Avenue]. According to “Bridging the Mohawk River” by J. Gara and J. Garver: “Work began in the winter of 1794-95 to build a wooden cable on the ice and lift it onto piers before ice-out. Unfortunately, a thaw opened the river and destroyed the work. If successful, it would have been the first long bridge in the 13 colonies.

Whether it was courage or folly, they tried again a decade later, with similar results: Gara and Garver tell us: “In 1806, construction began on the Burr Bridge again only to have more setbacks due to ice. Again, workers took advantage of the frozen river only to have their pier scaffolding destroyed when the river ice opened up in mid-winter.”

We like tradition around this little old city.  But, the Gazette just might be right: Some rites of winter should indeed be put on ice.

new ice
on the lake
the mayor walks on water

.. by dagosan

coldest day of the year
the lone skater laps
his breath

………………… by George Swede from Almost Unseen

.. orig. haiga. (orig. uncropped photo by AJG) ..

round and round with you
dancing
on thin ice

Poem: by dagosan
Photo: by Arthur Giacalone (The Gates, Central Park, NYC, 2004)

p.s. Speaking of cliches, Scott Greenfield has proven again that the Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease.  Given his and my reputations for curmudgeonly crankiness, Scott complained yesterday that lawyer-author Mark Hermann did not send either of us a copy of his book “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law”, when it was unveiled in 2006, while several other clearly less-deserving blawgers (such as Turkewitz, Schaeffer and Skove) received the book for fawning review at the time.  Rather than using a statute of limitations or laches defense, as a true curmudgeon might have done, Mark wrote to Scott today, offering to send each of us remaindered copies of his book. Mark has apparently forgotten that f/k/a had pooh-poohed, in true curmudgeonly fashion, the hyperbolic promotional campaign for the book — calling it an “instant cult classic” — when it was launched.  A big, warm suitably begrudging thankyou to Mark Hermann who better not be expecting this napped-deprived Boomer to actually read and critique his Guide.

Easily bought-off Greenfield has already welcomed Mark into our Curmudgeon’s Club.  Prof. Yabut and I are, on the other hand, having second-thoughts, having never actually seen any examples of Mark Hermann being curmudgeonly.  Perhaps Mark or our readers will fill us in, should they have suitable examples.

And, getting back to folks skating on thin ice with promotional hyperbole (and you know who I mean, Kevin): I was pleased to see in Scott’s posting about Mark yesterday, that lawyer Hermann — who pens the Drug and Device Law weblog — has joined the club of straight-talking blawgers who have long warned that you can’t expect writing a weblog to bring you paying clients.

2 Comments

  1. You are my curmudgeonly hero, Prof. Yabut.

    Comment by shg — January 14, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  2. Thanks, Scott. Due to his chronic battle with CRS, Prof. Yabut cannot think of anyone from whom he’d prefer to receive such a compliment.

    Comment by David Giacalone — January 14, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

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