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Snow stalls city, cleaning efforts criticized

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

On Tuesday, State Sen. John Sampson said, "I join with fellow elected officials in calling for the declaration of a state of emergency in the outer boroughs of New York City. All responsible authorities must undertake a thorough inquiry to determine the cause of the failure so it is not repeated."

The state senator noted that Brooklyn received a one-two punch in the wake of the December 26th blizzard. "First, we were slammed with the sixth-largest snowstorm ever, then City Hall didn't respond properly, causing unnecessary chaos. City plows have yet to cross hundreds of Brooklyn streets, stranding and endangering residents. MTA buses, cars and other vehicles are strewn in the middle of major transportation routes. Elevated subway tracks, common in Brooklyn, were rendered impassable and are only now becoming intermittently operational. Much of Brooklyn still remains inaccessible by public or private transportation nearly 48 hours after the storm."

Sampson determined, "After speaking to the Sanitation Department, my colleagues in government, and Community Board leaders, I can state unequivocally that this response to a major storm was inadequate."

He added that in the Brownsville section of his district, where nearly 90,000 people live, only three snowplows were assigned. They were directed to clean only main streets. More than 48 hours after the snow began to fall, major transportation arteries like Pitkin Avenue and Thomas Boyland Boulevard are only just being cleared. This pattern has been repeated all across the borough."

On top of New Yorkers dealing with reduced mass transportation service and unplowed streets, fares for the city's tolls, buses and trains went up on Thursday, December 30, 2010. A few New Yorkers, former and current, had a few things to get off of their chest when asked about the raised fares, the weather and the city's effort to clear the streets.

"What are gas prices looking like out there? That might be a better deal," said Merv Matthew, a native New Yorker who's now an assistant professor at DePauw University in Indiana.

"I won't be surprised if gas hits $4 for regular next year," said Sawandi Boyke, a native of Brooklyn.

"I'm not as sad to move back to Pittsburgh this weekend," said Cindy Usher, who's currently attending Drexel University College of Medicine.

Sampson concluded, "The poor response by the City administration is clearly unacceptable. It should not take one and a half hours to get through to the city's 311 emergency information line. Hospital personnel should not have to trek miles on foot to get to work. Emergency service vehicles cannot get to those who need immediate medical attention because of blocked roads. This situation puts our senior citizens, the sick and infirm in a life-threatening position. My district office has been informed of two New Yorkers who have died because EMS could not get to them after emergency calls were made.

"We are left to conclude that the Administration was not adequately prepared for a storm that it had ample notice to prepare for and failed to allocate adequate manpower and resources."

Pending the outcome of inquiries, Sampson said a blueprint should be put in place, including:

- Setting priority bus and subway routes in all five boroughs.

- Making sure these routes are cleared first, kept clear, and that transit lines are operational.

- Providing the public timely status updates about priority transit lines.

"There should be a review of the official communication protocols so that we do a better job of informing the public not only about when the storm is expected but about what they should expect in the aftermath," said Sampson.