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Warm words in icy Woodside

Bloomberg said tickets issued to car owners on either day in the five boroughs would automatically be waived by the city's Department of Finance. Anyone who already had paid the tickets will also receive a complete refund. Alternate-side parking rules were suspended throughout the day Friday.The city also suspended alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules Tuesday to "facilitate snow removal.""I'm sorry for the inconvenience to people,'' the mayor said Friday two days after the storm disrupted the city. "But you've got to make decisions and try things and each storm is different."The mayor's decision marked a change of heart from his sentiments on the topic the day before.While delivering lunches to tired Sanitation Department workers in Woodside last Thursday afternoon, Bloomberg stood by his decision not to suspend alternate-side parking rules. He said in order to ensure that the streets are quickly and effectively cleared, the city has to be able to access all of the road, and parking rules allow it to effectively do so.Bloomberg acknowledged that winter storms are never fun for commuters, but said the alternative would be far worse. "I'd rather sleep in, too," he said. "If you want dirty streets that aren't plowed then you won't have those problems, but that's the trade-off."The mayor praised the work of Sanitation workers in cleaning up after the Valentine's Day ice storm as residents across Queens struggled to dig out their cars in slippery conditions. The Feb. 14 storm, originally predicted as a predominantly rain event for the city by many weather services, dumped as much of three inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain across the borough.The city's 311 hot line reported receiving more than 165,000 calls following the storm, or four times the average volume. Despite the large number of calls to 311, Community Boards 6 in Forest Hills and 7 in Flushing said they received little or no complaints from residents. CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman said the storm appeared to catch the city by surprise, and she did not think anyone in the city was spared the hardship of digging out their cars. "It (the forecast) went from nothing to ice and that was the problem," Bitterman said. Bloomberg said that by noon last Thursday all of the city's more than 5,000 miles of roadways had been plowed at least once, and though trucks had spread more than 50,000 tons of salt already, they were still working to get to some areas.The mayor also noted that no major accidents had been reported anywhere in the city since the storm began late Feb. 13.Not everyone was happy with the city's response to the storm, however. Thousands of commuters across Queens woke up to find their cars covered in ice and pinned in their spots by passing plows. While chipping ice off her windshield last Thursday, Cindi Jackson of Bayside said she had spent more than an hour digging out her car."I've been out here forever," Jackson said. "I'm late for work already, and look, the roads still aren't clear."Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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