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Snow stalls city, cleaning efforts criticized

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.
(Bill Moore photo)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and company are still fighting off severe criticism of the city's cleanup efforts after one of the biggest snowstorms in years hit the five boroughs.

Last Sunday, a day after Christmas, the Northeast was pummeled by snow along with thunder and hurricane-like winds. Subway and Long Island Railroad services were suspended in many places along with bus service. Unplowed roads made traveling difficult and unplowed sidewalks didn't help the cause. The City of New York faced vitriol across the board from people frustrated with the efforts to clear city streets. Passengers on several A trains were stuck inside the trains for up to eight hours due to snow drifts on the third rails of the Broad Channel and Aqueduct train stops in Queens.

The MTA stated, "Limited service is operating on several rail and subway lines this afternoon, following round-the-clock efforts by MTA crews to clear and remove up to two feet of snow from the tracks, crucial signals and switches that make up our rail infrastructure. Crowding may be an issue on commuter rail service. We urge customers to plan ahead as much as possible."

Bloomberg and the city of New York sent out a press release on Monday discussing the latest developments.

"New York City was hit with a winter storm that was as strong as the meteorologists predicted," read Bloomberg's statement. "Our Sanitation crews worked through the night but road conditions are bad and there are service interruptions and delays on mass transit. To keep the roads clear for plows and emergency crews, I encourage New Yorkers to avoid driving. New York City government never really closes, and it won't today, but of course we understand that many will face travel obstacles.

Bloomberg reiterated some of his points during a Tuesday afternoon news conference at Office of Emergency Management in Downtown Brooklyn amid backlash to the way the city's handled the recovery.

"Anyone who's been outside recently can see that the storm is not like any other we had to deal with including the bug blizzard of 2006," Bloomberg said. "In this case, 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."

"We do appreciate the severity of the conditions they face and we're doing everything we possibly can," Bloomberg continued. "Today our number-one challenge are abandoned ambulances, cars and buses."

But once video surfaced of a New York City Sanitation tow truck smashing a parked Ford Explorer while towing a stranded snowplow in Brooklyn Heights, the fight against public perception of the city's operations have become a lost cause.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is one of the many elected officials calling for City Council hearings into the slow progress of the post-blizzard clean up. Plus, talk that the sanitation workers went on a deliberate go-slow in protest of layoffs and pay did not ease the public's angst.