CBS2 Demands Answers: Lack Of Plowed Streets Sparks Frustration In Queens, The Bronx

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The big dig out continued in parts of Queens and the Bronx Monday where residents and local lawmakers said they were frustrated as many streets remained unplowed following the major winter storm that clobbered the city.

Queens was hit the hardest with more than 30 inches of snow in some spots. The blanket of white left residents in Ozone Park spinning their wheels, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

Residents said vehicles were getting stuck all day on an untouched 101st Street.

“Horrendous. I mean they haven’t passed by to plow the streets. Been two days. Horrible,” Omar de la Cruz said.

On Sunday night, a CBS2 truck became stuck near 69th Road and 76th Street. On Monday night, vehicles were still going nowhere at the same location.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that most primary and secondary roads were cleared, but admitted that smaller streets were “a mixed bag.”

“We’ve got to finish this job today,” he said during a news conference. “We had 850 plows in Queens, we have added another 60 or, 70 actually now, from other boroughs so we are at 920 plows being focused on Queens so we’ll really be able to drill down on those streets with additional need.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, the lack of plowed streets was reminiscent of another mayor’s slow snow response.

The delay in plowing local streets led to real anger in Queens.

Many tertiary streets in several neighborhoods were still unrecognizable after Saturday’s blizzard.

“This is a disgrace. Our mayor, what is he being paid for? To do what? To do this?” Middle Village resident, Bill Albergo said.

In Middle Village, snow covered 75th Street. Residents Monday morning said they hadn’t seen a plow there since 10 a.m. Sunday, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.

EXTRA: Check Plow Progress

“Plow came three-quarters of the way up, got stuck and then it went back out again,” resident Mike Columbia said.

“Cars are stuck, there was a plow that didn’t make it half way up the block. I think it got stuck, went back,” said resident Tatiana Lynch. “There’s a wall of snow in the middle of the street. It’s kind of inconvenient to a lot of people, but hopefully it will be cleaned up today.”

Another snow covered street was 65th Drive, which appeared to have been untouched by a plow early Monday, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

It was a similar scene on 61st Road where a small school bus became stranded around 7 a.m. as the driver was trying to pick up five kids on the block, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

“The road ain’t even plowed, I turned to come around the corner, I can’t get down the street. Now I’m trying to back up — it’s backing up a hill. I figured they knew that the roads were plowed and it would be fine, but apparently not,” the driver told Schuck. “The turn was fine, it was just when I saw, look at the street here, there’s two feet of snow in front of me I can’t get through it.”

On 78th Road in Glendale, one resident used his own snowblower to try to clear the street, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported. He said he was “doing the city’s job.”

Christine Porter told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez the intersection of her home on 89th Avenue and 239th Street was still buried under the snow as of Monday afternoon.

“I usually take the snowblower and the four-wheeler and clean up everybody’s parking spots,” Porter said. And usually clean the intersection as well because literally I think were one of the last neighborhoods that kind of get addressed.”

“Totally neglected the neighborhood, absolutely,” he said. “We thought we had it bad with Bloomberg, de Blasio is even worse. He just thought about Brooklyn, his borough. Totally neglected Queens.”

Other residents agreed.

“I blame the mayor, if he had done a better job this would have been all plowed out, he had the weekend to do it,” another man said.

A city plow did some work on 82nd Street off Myrtle Avenue, but residents said it got stuck, backed out and never returned.

In Corona, 97th Street just off 55th Avenue was also buried under nearly two feet of snow, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported.

“It’s bad, terrible,” one resident said.

“I’m glad that they did half of 96th Street. That’s great! But they could’ve finished the job…It’s almost worse, because you come down the street and then you can’t go anywhere,” Alex Blenkinsopp, who volunteers with a community group, told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

And moving cars has been nearly impossible. Resident Femi John found that out the hard way.

“We’re all stuck. I’ve been here the last two hours trying to get out,” John said.

CBS2 photographer Greg Giglione came to the rescue and helped push John out.

City plows finally came through the neighborhood later Monday morning, but the roads were so bad, one crew got stuck and had to dig themselves out, Gold reported.

“It’s a difficult job, it’s not easy getting down these blocks,” a sanitation worker said.

State Senator Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said Queens was “clearly left behind by the administration.”

“Unfortunately, our borough, which is the city’s biggest, again got the short end of the stick. This situation comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration assured us that they were prepared to respond adequately to the storm,” Peralta said in a statement. “This administration promised that the streets were going to be cleaned and plowed by this morning, but this is not the case. We must learn from this experience and build upon the mistakes that were made in order to be better prepared for future storms.”

Assembly members Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) called the city’s response to the borough “unacceptable” and “less than adequate.”

“We were given assurances that the streets of Queens would be plowed by Monday morning and yet many streets remain covered in snow. Our borough deserves better. It is simply unacceptable for Queens to be left behind yet again. Year after year, the storm response in Queens has been inadequate,” Moya said in a statement. “Although we commend the mayor’s office for remaining in continued contact with Queens elected officials this year, the plows have simply not come fast enough. While the rest of the city is getting back on its feet after the storm, parts of Queens are still snowed in. It has created a potentially dangerous situation for our residents.”

“Parts of our community endured tens of hours without ever seeing a snow plow on their street,” DenDekker said in a statement. “While I praise the sanitation workers who work tirelessly during these storms, I question the necessary staffing and equipment assigned to our area.”

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) also had harsh words for the mayor.

“Life is not back to normal here in Woodhaven or Ozone Park or Richmond Hill or so many neighborhoods in Queens where people are literally buried under two-and-a-half feet of snow, and the mayor says help is on the way, but we haven’t seen any help,” Ulrich said.

Eastern Queens was a particular problem. It was deja vu for some who remember the blizzard of 1969 when it took days for Mayor John Lindsay to get plows to Queens while Manhattan streets were spotless.

“Thanks for not listening, and I’m pretty sure your neighborhood is nice and clear at this point, isn’t it?” Christine Porter Bellerose said.

Councilman Rory Lancman represents Eastern Queens. He said the city’s response was simply unacceptable.

“My constituents are upset. They’re angry. They pay taxes, they expect services and again it’s not like this was the first snow storm in the city’s history. It’s not the first snow storm where queens was forgotten,” Lancman said.

Lancman was so upset that he tweeted numerous pictures of streets that had not been plowed, and one that photoshopped Bill de Blasio onto that iconic picture of former President George Bush declaring “Mission Accomplished.”

There was no mission accomplished in Queens, Lancman said.

“Queens, we always feel like we’re forgotten, especially when it comes to snow storms, but in a lot of things as well. The city is more than just Manhattan,” Lancman said.

Staten Island residents weren’t happy either, and resident Tommy Travis had a message for the mayor.

“Get a plow down here,” he said.

There were similar scenes in the Bronx, where snow still covered some side streets in Pelham Bay.

“It wouldn’t have been too bad if we didn’t have a sanitation truck stuck there for about 10 hours so no plows could come through,” one resident told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones. “So they weren’t able to come through until about midnight, 3 o’clock this morning.”

Another resident said drivers needs to take turns on narrow roads.

“The roads are terrible, it’s pretty difficult to get through some of the streets,” he said.

“My husband can’t go to work, my son can’t go to work… we’re losing pay here, it’s not good,” one Queens woman told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria.

What upset many people was the victory lap that de Blasio took on Monday to congratulate city workers for their work during the blizzard.

“I think absolutely fair to say our public workers are doing an outstanding job. Sanitation workers have been working long, long shifts. They barely get a chance to rest. No one is saying mission accomplished here, what we’re saying is a lot of good work has happened,” the mayor said, “If I’m living on one of those blocks I’m going to be upset. I want to get my block cleared.”

The mayor also pointed to near record snowfall totals.

“This is not your average storm, point two inches more would have been the greatest snowfall in the history of New York City in the last century and a half,” the mayor said.

De Blasio also said that too many people are putting snow they remove from their cars back onto the street.

“You take 27 inches of snow off a bunch of cars, you will literally block a street,” he said.

Some lawmakers and others have also questioned the city’s decision to have schools open as normal Monday.

“About half the kids are probably going to be absent at school and it’s kind of like babysitting,” said a man named Joe, a teacher from Queens who works in Brooklyn. “I feel like it would have been more productive to close the school and just take the day, take the hit.”

“This was not a great idea today,” said his wife Silvia, who works with special needs children. “I think it’s dangerous, I really do.”

Yadira Nunez, who was trying to get her daughter to school, said they were already an hour late.

“There are going to be a lot of kids late today,” she said.

But de Blasio defended the call Monday, saying parents depend on the schools.

“We make one decision for our school system of 1.1 million kids — one decision. We cannot say ‘in this neighborhood there is school, in that neighborhood there is no school,’ it doesn’t work that way,” he said. “We know some streets were really tough, but overall there was no question this city could get school off effectively and safely.”

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said they believe they are making good progress, but said clearing the snow from some of the more narrow blocks is slow-going.

“We’ve been having to go into them with front-end loaders, so it’s extremely slow work, and actually pull the snow out of the street to get them cleared,” she told CBS2. “One of our biggest challenges is how much snow ends up back on the street when people dig out their cars.”

Garcia said they’re working to get the vast majority of streets open, but acknowledged there is still a lot of snow on the ground.

“We will begin piling and hauling operations and melting operations to try to get it out of crosswalks, bus stops, schools, but it’s piling up on corners very, very high,” she said.

She said she was confident that the remaining streets would be done Monday.

“We’ve made it through over 96 percent of all the mileage,” she told 1010 WINS. “We know where we have some pockets of issues.”

De Blasio also reminded residents that alternate side parking is suspended this week and urged those who don’t need to move their cars to leave them where they are.

But for those whose streets are still buried, they just want the mess cleaned up.

“Something needs to change quick,” John from Corona said. “Real quick.”

The mayor did order about 60 additional plows to Queens, and others to Staten Island. He also said the words New Yorkers and impatience go together, and that 27 inches of snow is not going to go away overnight.

The mayor said things will be better by Tuesday morning.

The city said it is also looking to hire eligible workers to help remove snow and ice.

Snow laborers make $13.50 per hour, but that jumps to $20.25 after 40 hours are worked in a week.

Anyone interested should stop by their local district Sanitation Department garage on weekdays.

For more information and for a list of garage locations, click here.

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