Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 4:46 p.m.
"People just stayed out there too long, frankly," said John Doherty, New York City's sanitation commissioner, on Tuesday. Doherty, like many in New York City government in the past week, seemed to be looking for something to blame, looking for something to explain to fallout from a post-Christmas blizzard that essentially shut down the five boroughs for a day.
Doherty attempted to lay blame on citizens who thought they could get home from post-Christmas shopping on Dec. 26 in time to avoid the beginning of the storm. He, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also blamed citizens for shoveling snow off their sidewalks and into streets that had already been plowed.
"When I go through my reports on the night of [Dec.] 26, there were reports of a lot of cars out on the streets," said Doherty. "This snowstorm did not allow us to go back into the secondary streets like we normally do until later in the storm. Even on the primary [streets] we found that cars were abandoned, people were having accidents and cars were stopping [in the middle of the street] to clean ice off the windshield. We didn't have to face these problems during the storm in '96."
Tell that to the millions of New Yorkers who lived through the famous blizzard of '96 and feel like they didn't experience nearly the number of problems they did during the days between Christmas and New Year's Day.
Last week's snowstorm led to many unplowed streets in the five boroughs, and shut down subways and Long Island Railroad service, featuring passengers stuck on an A train for up to eight hours due to snow drifts on the third rail of the Broad Channel and Aqueduct train stops in Queens. Straphangers spent much of their time on the train without food, water, heat or access to a restroom. Several of them said that they intend to file a lawsuit.
Bloomberg said after the storm last Tuesday that "the snow did not stop falling until 9:30 yesterday morning...When the storm occurs over the weekend, it's easier to deal with. The NYPD-authorized tow trucks have removed 1,000 vehicles from the Van Wyck, Gowanus and Cross Bronx expressways alone."
But some residents are pointing towards news issued by New York City Councilman Dan Halloran of Queens. According to Halloran, several employees from the Department of Sanitation came to his office to report an apparent order to go slow on plowing the city's streets during the storm and the storm's aftermath. They said that the order came from a few supervisors who were allegedly upset over the mayor's new budget, which contained proposed action to demote them from their current position. While some conservative pundits have jumped on the bandwagon to pin the blame specifically on unions, when contacted by the AmNews, Halloran's people emphasized that the "go slow" approach was not representative of all sanitation workers.
"The councilman made it very clear that the large majority of sanitation workers work very hard and ought to be commended," said a spokesperson for Halloran. "The problem is just a few bad apples who happen to be demoted under the mayor's new budget. They weren't a majority of the workers, but there were some supervisors who instructed their workers to do their slowdown. But a small number of people doing it makes a huge difference. It was regular sanitation workers, men on the street, who approached the councilman and wanted it to be stopped. The proof is in the pudding."