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Avella pledges again to shovel for seniors

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Phil Corso

With a potentially snowy winter looming, one northeast Queens lawmaker has revamped recruiting efforts to staff a snow removal for seniors program in its sophomore season.

Last year, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) launched the program, which paired volunteers with senior citizens in areas including Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, Little Neck and Whitestone, to expedite snow removal in the borough.

The senator’s efforts came one year after a winter of heavy snowfall in 2010, from which community leaders argued snow removal was subpar, Avella said.

“Year after year seniors struggle to clear their sidewalks and remove the snow,” Avella said. “Many seniors are unable to remove the smallest amount of snow and are completely trapped following the larger storms. Unfortunately, they are still responsible for the snow removal in front of their homes and often receive fines from the city for not clearing the snow from their sidewalks.”

Though the program was not heavily tested in 2011, meteorological predictions have shown the upcoming winter season to be packed full of snow.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Northeast saw only 24.7 inches of snowfall by the end of 2011 — the lowest recorded number since 2006, which recorded just over 18 inches.

But for this coming winter, the Farmers’ Almanac predicted a snowier season.

“It’s like Old Man Winter is cutting the country in half,” said Peter Geiger, editor for the Farmers’ Almanac. “The eastern half of the country will see plenty of cold and snow. The western half will experience relatively warm and dry conditions.”

Geiger said the Farmers’ Almanac has “red flagged” periods between Feb. 12 and Feb. 15 as well as March 20 and March 23 for major coastal storms along the Atlantic seaboard, packed with an extra punch of strong wind and heavy precipitation.

Last year, Avella said he worked with Bayside’s Shin Kawng Church to collect more than a dozen volunteers willing to shovel snow for seniors after heavy snowstorms and prevent them from being trapped inside their homes. The program also delivers 10 hours of community service credits to student volunteers, Avella said.

Avella said seniors and volunteers reported positive results after the program’s debut last year and his office already had collected dozens of participants for the second go-around. And with two notable storms already passing through the area by early November, including Superstorm Sandy and a subsequent nor’easter, Avella said his office was buffing its efforts to find “selfless, able-bodied” volunteers of all ages to join in on the program.

Volunteers of any age are encouraged to contact the senator’s office at 718-357-3094, Avella said.

“These seniors need our help and with one significant snowstorm already in the books, I encourage as many volunteers as possible to participate in this beneficial program,” Avella said.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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