I’d never seen it on a sidewalk before. But yesterday, there it was. Or was it? Scraping into freshly-laid or nearly-dried concrete can be unpredictable. In this case the letter R may have been a casualty, leaving us with a stifled instance of the legendary PRAY scratchiti artist. I want it to be real, but want is not enough.

After spotting this, I learned later that the expected lifespan of a concrete sidewalk is said to be anywhere from 30 to 50 years. If this piece of sidewalk was laid at any time in the 1980s, when PRAY is said to have still been active, that puts it well within the 50-year range. On the other hand, does the 50-year expectation apply to all sidewalks? What of this one, on a busy Manhattan Avenue that might get considerably more foot traffic than typical sidewalks? Would that shorten the life of this sidewalk patch?

A piece of sidewalk in front of my apartment building has the year “1982” etched into it. It is certainly nothing official, but it at least suggests that the surface has been there since the early 1980s. Where are these records kept? Probably nowhere. Property owners are responsible for the safety and maintenance of sidewalks adjoining their property, but actual repair work is done by the DOT and/or its licensed contractors. Permits have to be issued. Are they one record anywhere?