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De Blasio: ‘More Could Have Been Done’ To Clear Snow On Upper East Side

Mayor Earlier Said All Boroughs Treated Equally In Snow Removal

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio said “no one was treated differently” when it comes to snow cleanup, he headed to the Upper East Side to see the situation for himself.

The mayor released a statement afterward, conceding that the response on the Upper East Side was insufficient and demanding that city crews “double down” on snow removal there.

“After hearing concerns about street conditions on the Upper East Side, I headed to the area to survey the streets for myself, and to hear from residents directly. While the overall storm response across the city was well-executed, after inspecting the area and listening to concerns from residents earlier today, I determined more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side,” the mayor said in a statement.

The statement continued: “I have instructed the Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation to double-down on cleanup efforts on the Upper East Side, and as a result, 30 vehicles and nearly 40 sanitation workers have been deployed to the area to finish the cleanup. Our crews will remain on the streets around the clock until the roadways are clear in every neighborhood, in every borough, across New York City.”

But as CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, some Upper East Side roads remained a mess 24 hours after the snowstorm. And allegations that de Blasio’s administration ignored the streets persisted.

“I think this is what Chris Christie did in Jersey, is repayment to the Upper East Side,” said Stuart Super of the Upper East Side, “and I’m sure nobody will will admit that.”

Super said de Blasio’s concession that the Upper East Side snow removal effort had been inadequate came too late.

“I think he’s nervous that maybe he went too far with this,” he said.

Schneider reported that event though de Blasio said 30 vehicles and 40 sanitation crews would be coming to the area, a five-hour drive around the streets only turned up one.

“Is that enough for Mayor De Blasio to say hey, I’m sorry?” said Upper East Side resident Kerri Rappaport. “I’m the type to forgive and move on, so as long as next time we’re more taken care of in this area and it’s not as bad. I don’t mind maybe a mess up year.”

Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, de Blasio said there was no merit to complaints by some residents that he was giving special treatment to certain parts of the city while ignoring others.

“They are just mistaken, no one was treated differently. We believe in a five borough approach,” he said. “I think people need to be mindful when they hurl those charges. It’s not real respectful of the men and women who work so hard for us in sanitation. They were out in force in every neighborhood.”

De Blasio said earlier Wednesday that 100 percent of New York City’s primary streets were plowed by 6 a.m. He said 90 percent of the secondary streets also have been plowed.

He said the storm was “challenging” but workers for the city have risen to the occasion.

“Our sanitation workers have been out in force for the last 24 hours,” he said.

But complaints about unplowed streets mounted Tuesday night, especially on the Upper East Side, where there were reports of streets being left untouched for hours.

Many streets, including Fifth, Madison and Park and Third avenues, East 57th Street, and others, were still covered by snow Wednesday morning.

A school bus on Wednesday morning was unable to make a turn from Third Avenue onto snow-packed 80th Street. Cars could not get traction, and pedestrians were slipping, CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported.

Kramer reported the controversy has been dubbed “Snowgate” by some.

“The streets of the city have been so poorly taken care of by the new mayor. I’ve never seen anything like this in 64 years of living in the city,” said David Kriss of the Upper East Side. “He certainly doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

A woman crosses an unplowed Park Avenue on January 22, 2014 in New York.     (Photo TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman crosses an unplowed Park Avenue on January 22, 2014 in New York. (Photo TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

One Upper East Side mother told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern that the snow-covered streets forced her to drive her young son to school Wednesday morning.

“I didn’t even want to brave the stroller,” she said. “I just had to drive.”

Another resident, Diane, described the conditions in the area to WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

“There was a bus stuck in the middle of Third Avenue, and then behind it a semi that couldn’t get up between 81st and 82nd cause it was unplowed,” she said.

Another resident, Diane, described the conditions in the area to WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

“There was a bus stuck in the middle of Third Avenue, and then behind it a semi that couldn’t get up between 81st and 82nd cause it was unplowed,” she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the mayor’s office Tweeted a photo of de Blasio on the Upper East Side, shaking hands.

At the Wednesday news conference, CBS 2’s Kramer asked the mayor why Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn was cleared to the blacktop, while the Upper East Side was still full of snow.

“We had an extraordinary effort in the last 24 hours, if you go to a lot of parts of the city, they are reporting an ever improving situation,” de Blasio responded. “If there is any place that’s not good enough, we are going to keep working every hour at this point on to improve it. The deployments of personnel, equipment have been even throughout the city.”

De Blasio and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said clearing snow from city streets had been slow going Tuesday because the storm intensified just in time for the evening commute.

“We sat in the traffic just like everybody else that was trying to get out of that area at that time, so that’s going to happen,” Doherty said.

Doherty said as soon as the snow stopped early Wednesday, all city streets were made passable, but said “we’ve got a long way to go.”

“People have to realize, with these temperatures, with the salt not reacting too well, there are going to be some white streets for a while,” he said.

Doherty said a map that showed streets going unplowed on the Upper East Side Tuesday night was also due to a faulty GPS system on a salt spreader. Because of that, the snow tracker did not show that the streets had been plowed, he said.

But on Wednesday, angry residents were not buying the explanation that a busted GPS was to blame.

“I heard the GPS in the sanitation truck – it doesn’t make any sense to me,” one man said. “Just look outside – there’s something wrong. You don’t need a GPS to tell you that.”

Other city officials said they received a lot of complaints from residents on the Upper East Side.

“I would accept that perhaps there were some technological issues except for the fact that we were hearing so many complaints from people about the absence of plows,” City Councilman Daniel Garodnick (D-4th) told 1010 WINS.

The complaints, however, weren’t confined to just the Upper East Side. Diane Barberito, of Fresh Meadows, Queens, was also angry about the lack of plows out Tuesday night.

“Union Turnpike and Little Neck Parkway and the expressways were not plowed,” she told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “I mean, they came this morning and did here, but I definitely think that (de Blasio) wasn’t as efficient this time.”

De Blasio said in all, sanitation crews have 6,300 miles of city roads to plow.

Some parts of the Tri-State Area saw more than a foot of snow Tuesday, in a storm that closed New York City schools.

City schools were open Wednesday, the school attendance was 47.1 percent – a low not seen since a similar snowstorm on Jan. 12, 2011. On most days, the attendance rate is about 90 percent, the city said.

In the past, failure to keep city the streets plowed has turned into a heated political issue more than once, Kramer reported.

When a 15-inch snowstorm struck the city on Feb. 10, 1969, then-Mayor John Lindsay was quickly accused of focusing snow removal efforts on Manhattan, while residents of Queens were neglected.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to Bermuda during the Christmas weekend blizzard in 2010, and many streets in the city’s outer boroughs were left unplowed three days later. Numerous residents never forgot.

And in Chicago, one mayor’s response to a snowstorm some 35 years ago ended up costing him an election.

When 18.8 inches of snow fell in Chicago in January 1979, then-Mayor Michael Bilandic took heat from area residents as streets were left unplowed – some of them rendered impassable for months. Bilandic was defeated in a landslide later that year by former Mayor Jane Byrne, who used Bilandic’s response to the blizzard as a primary campaign issue.

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