Reporting Marla Diamond
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Snow dusted the city Friday, less than two weeks after a post-Christmas blizzard paralyzed it and its airports for days. Reeling from criticism over a slow cleanup, officials put GPS devices on sanitation trucks and quality-of-life teams on the streets and promised to do a better job.
The general snow accumulation across the Tri-State area Friday was 1-4 inches, with some areas seeing slightly higher totals.
Officials armed the five boroughs with a thorough, if untested, plan. Scout teams roamed the City, outfitted with cameras and technology similar to CBS 2′s Mobile 2, able to send live pictures back to the command center in an instant to give supervisors “eyes” on problems.
“Last week it was terrible,” commuter Shannon LaGuerre, an attorney who drives into the city from Stony Point, N.Y., said.
“This is nothing,” declared Mohammed Hafeez, who sells newspapers above the subway in downtown Manhattan. “I want 30 inches so I can take three or four days off.”
Two-way GPS tracking devices have been installed in 50 sanitation trucks in Brooklyn and more in Queens in a pilot program for instant response to trouble spots.
The pilot GPS devices in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said, will let officials track plows and also let sanitation workers in the field report problems, like stuck cars, with exact locations. If successful, the city plans to install GPS on all of its 1,700 sanitation trucks.
Workers will get retraining on snow emergencies.
The city will deployed teams from its street conditions observation unit, which typically looks for quality-of-life problems like potholes and graffiti, to monitor conditions during the storm. The teams will shoot video of the conditions on the streets.
Bloomberg said these are just a few of the changes that they’ve made.
“We’re always looking into everything. I’ve made some changes. Mr. Doherty’s made some changes. We keep looking at things and evaluating what worked, what didn’t worked, whether we think we could have done a better job, whether we think other people with a fresh view can do a better job,” Bloomberg said.
Will it be enough? “I don’t think anything is going to change on my block. The streets are going to be covered with snow. The plows won’t come for three or four days and people will have to try and dig themselves out,” said Vincent Berba of Queens Village.
Last month’s storm dumped 2 feet in some places. Many streets in boroughs outside Manhattan went unplowed for days. Queens, for example, earned the nickname of “forgotten borough” where streets in Middle Village were left unplowed for nearly four days.
Residents said it was that very reason that there would be no way that the City would leave behind their neighborhoods this time.
“Because they already made a big mistake so they are going to make up for it this time and usually the city gets it right the second time,” Middle Village resident Terese said.
Skepticism remained, however, for Elizabeth Casenza, whose parents live in Whitestone.
“Seems to be better they have plows out now and it hasn’t even yet to build up but I would watch over time to see how they do,” Casenza said.
The blizzard was bad, but this storm seems no more than a nuisance, which is why sanitation workers were hanging out in Dunkin Donuts on Francis Lewis Boulevard. They have to wait for at least 2 inches of snow to plow.
Ambulances and buses got stuck in the snow. Calls to 911 backed up, and some people who needed urgent medical care did not get it.
Patrick Bahnken, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors FDNY, said the difficulties were in no way the fault of his union’s members, many of whom were desperately trying to get through the snow and save lives during the storm and its aftermath. At one point 911 dispatchers and emergency medical technicians were wrestling a backlog of 1,300 emergency calls.
“The EMS system did not fail. The support of the EMS system failed,” said Bahnken, who argued that ambulances should have been given snow chains even if it posed some slight risk to the vehicles. “For God’s sake, we’re talking about lives here, and you’re worrying about what’s going to happen to an ambulance,” he said.
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