City Drops the Ball after the Blizzard

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Sometimes the truth is embarrassing. Last Thursday afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that by Thursday morning every street in the city would be plowed at least once. That was 72 hours after the snow stopped falling and completely unacceptable.

And it was not true.

The city’s failure to make the streets at least passable in a timely manner is more than just an inconvenience — it puts lives at risk. There were many streets in Queens where ambulances and other emergency vehicles could not get through even two days after the storm. In some cases, people had to wait four hours or more for an ambulance. At least one woman died waiting for an ambulance.

City residents were encouraged to take mass transit, but even most Queens buses were still not running. Residents who dug their cars out had nowhere to go because streets were not plowed.

We are still waiting to hear what went wrong. The storm did not take the city by surprise. By Christmas Day forecasters were talking about a snowstorm and a likely blizzard. The city had 24 hours to prepare.

Queens residents living near the Nassau County border saw that this storm could have been handled better. A village of West Hempstead employee told Channel 2 that “We pre-treat the roads, and the minute the storm hits we sand and we salt and then plow when snow gets high enough.”

Then pouring road salt into the city’s wound, another county worker told the TV reporter, “We’d love to work with the city to get the job done. We have reached out over time but haven’t quite gotten that call back. But we will keep on trying. Maybe his office will respond to us in the near future. Maybe this will light a fire.”

Nassau is facing budget problems far worse than the city. Even so, our eastern neighbors were able to drive their cars two days before Queensites.

And reports are beginning to surface that the response by the Sanitation Department and the city Department of Transportation was no accident. City Councilman Dan Halloran said five city workers told him that they were told by supervisors “to take their time” plowing roads because the “mayor’s office doesn’t care about them.”

Updated 10:37 am, October 12, 2011
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