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Cancer Society struggles with snow in Little Neck

But the Northern Boulevard store, whose proceeds go to cancer research, cannot afford to pay either shovelers or the $100 summons, and it is calling on the public to help keep its storefront clear.

"They really go after everyone," said store manager Helen Handelman of the Sanitation Department, which issued the ticket Jan. 21. "We need some volunteers to shovel the snow."

Many of the volunteers who man the shop are senior citizens.

The city's plowing budget for this year was $20 million, a figure it had already overspent by $1 million before the latest snowstorm even hit, said Sanitation Department spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins.

Over 7,000 tickets had been issued citywide for unshoveled sidewalks since Jan. 19, she said, but could not provide a figure for Queens. The fines range from $100 to $350 for repeat offenders.

One of those hit with a $100 ticket was the Little Neck thrift store, which employs 52 volunteers - all of them cancer survivors or relatives of cancer patients.

"If I call someone and ask them to shovel, they want so much money," said Handelman. "We try to do it, but it's really hard."

After a snowfall ends, business and property owners have four hours under city regulations to clear the snow from the front of their buildings to the curb. They have until 11 a.m. the next day if the snow stops falling after 9 p.m.

Owners must clear a pedestrian pathway and throw down salt, sand, cat litter or some other melting or clumping agent.

Dawkins said the summons was issued by the agency's night task force to the building's owner, not to the cancer society.

The inspector "did observe ice covering the area, especially on the sides of the premises," said Dawkins, who added that there was no visible salt, sand or cat litter laid in front of the store.

"There are elderly people that have to walk on that sidewalk," said Dawkins.

Handelman said the building's owner cleared the sidewalk shortly before the Sanitation inspectors arrived.

"The snow was shoveled," she said. "They left at 4:30 and the next day I saw the ticket (was written at) 5 p.m."

The cancer society's lease holds the organization, not the landlord, responsible for maintaining the front of the store - a clause that also leaves the group footing the bill for the summons, said Handelman.

A hearing on the ticket was scheduled for March 5. Meanwhile, Handelman has enlisted the help of Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum in fighting the ticket.

The store desperately needs volunteers to shovel the snow, said Handelman, but she asked that shovelers stop in and introduce themselves "so I know who did it, who I should thank."

The Discovery Shop can be reached at (718) 631-0296.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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