Blizzard Response Was a Disaster

More than 80 hours after the snow stopped falling in last week’s blizzard, many streets in northeast Queens had not been plowed. This powerful storm was not the worst the city has ever seen, but the response to this emergency may be the worst.

For days people could not get to work because even buses were not running. Some residents lived without heat because Con Edison and ambulances could not get through.

There is a report that the slow response was intentional. City Councilman Dan Halloran said five city workers, including two Department of Transportation and three Sanitation Department employees, told him they were told by supervisors “to take their time” plowing roads because the “mayor’s office doesn’t care about them.”

Television and print media have also reported that the response to the blizzard was delayed as a form of protest to cuts made by the mayor. In the last two years, 400 workers were cut from the agency and 100 department supervisors’ salaries were expected to be reduced Friday.

Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said he will investigate these claims but has emphasized he has serious doubts Sanitation’s response was sabotaged. What every Queens resident can confirm is that the city’s response to the blizzard was inadequate. In neighboring Nassau County, every street was plowed by Tuesday morning. But in Queens, Borough President Helen Marshall said last Thursday that many borough streets had yet to be plowed.

The miserable showing was more than an inconvenience. State Sen. Jose Peralta said a Corona woman died because emergency responders could not reach her in time due to impassable streets.

The mayor, the city Department of Investigation, the Council and the governor have all promised to investigate the pitiful response and the reports of a deliberate slowdown.

In the past, we have been impressed by the effort made by Sanitation employees following major snowstorms. They often worked grueling 24-hour shifts to make certain all city streets were clear. The possibility that this time supervisors and workers engaged in a deliberate slowdown is beyond disappointing.

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