Report Downplays Allegations Of December Blizzard Response Slowdown
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A new report surrounding allegations of a possible slowdown by New York City’s Department of Sanitation during the blizzard of 2010 found that there was no clear evidence of intentional neglect.
The report, released by the Department of Investigation, stated much of the delay on December 27 stemmed from “significant difficulties in their snow removal operations.”
The report cites a number of contributing factors faced by the Sanitation Department including:
- Heavy traffic during the holiday
- A large volume of 911 calls
- A snow emergency was not declared in the city
- A cease salt order (meaning salt was not allowed to be put on the ground)
- A large number of DSNY trucks not equipped with proper number of chains on their tires
The Tri-state area was blanketed with nearly 30 inches of snow in some areas during a massive storm on December 26. Almost two feet of snow was dumped on New York City.
In the wake of the blizzard, officials and residents questioned what seemed to be a slow response by the city’s clean up crews, including the Department of Sanitation. Days after the blizzard, there were still streets in the outer boroughs that hadn’t been plowed.
WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman With More Details On The Report
Many speculated an intentional slowdown by sanitation workers and there were reports of bickering between the city and some unions over whether a snow emergency should have been called.
The report cited citizen complaints of sanitation workers not doing their jobs, driving through neighborhoods with their plows raised, sleeping in their trucks and even drinking on duty.
Four sanitation workers in Brooklyn were also alleged to have neglected their duties and instead bought beer from a deli and sat in their car while people were stranded just blocks away.
The DOI did confirm that those workers are now facing disciplinary action.
When looking into the allegations of plows not plowing, investigators reviewed surveillance video from cameras throughout the city.
They say in all, 265 plow-equipped vehicles were out in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island during the storm and that 30 were seen with their plows lifted. But the report says, that doesn’t necessarily mean they were not plowing on purpose. Some of the trucks may have been going to or returning from work while others were seen in areas with little snow accumulation. But most of the trucks, the report said, were doing their jobs.
Many of the allegations of workers “slacking off” on the job, drinking coffee, sleeping or eating at Dunkin Donuts, were actually the result of broken down trucks or trucks that were stuck in the snow, according to the report.
“There were an awful lot of employees stranded in their trucks – shift after shift,” DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello.
Investigators said many city sanitation workers’ trucks became stranded in the massive snowfall and didn’t have proper shovels or chains to dig themselves out. That meant that many were stranded for up to 12 hours in some cases.
In fact, the report said workers complained about the lack of and low quality of equipment for their trucks like the chains and shovels.
The release of the report also contradicts the claims of Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran. The DOI said his claims that five city workers told him of a deliberate slowdown could not be verified.
In a statement, Halloran said that while the report “highlights some serious deficiencies, mismanagement and employee misconduct,” he believes that “disturbing questions” still remain.
“My constituents expect me to shed a light on problems and come up with solutions, and I am going to do that, even when it makes the powers that be uncomfortable,” he said in the statement.
The report recommends the city come up with a better plan when it comes to the deployment of plows and workers, especially when there is severe weather and that decisions should be made on “specific circumstances” and not from a standard policy.
The document has been sent to the Department of Sanitation, the Brooklyn and Queens District Attorneys and the US Attorney in Brooklyn.
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