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Small streets left unplowed

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Kelsey Durham

More than three years after contracts were signed to outsource plowing of the city’s tertiary streets, some City Council members say they have received complaints this winter claiming that small streets in many neighborhoods are still not being cleared after snowfall.

The city Sanitation Department said the Council made the decision to stop plowing tertiary streets after the last big blizzard in 2010, and the city now contracts with four private companies instead. Those four companies — HK Contracting, CSB Contractors, Natural Landscape and Gaeta — are responsible for clearing snow from all 216 tertiary roads across the five boroughs.

Kathy Dawkins, director of public information for Sanitation, said the city decided to outsource some streets in order to provide a greater overall plowing effort.

“Based on City Council hearings after the 2010 snowstorm, it was determined by the City Council that the department would establish tertiary contracts to complement Sanitation’s snow clearing capabilities,” she said.

But some city dwellers say the efforts by the contracting companies this season have been less than successful.

Residents on Shore Road in Douglaston and 6th Avenue in College Point have complained about unplowed streets after some of the recent snowstorms.

A spokesman for the office of Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said about 35 percent of calls into the office complaining about snow removal this season have been about tertiary streets, which the city categorizes as “not heavily trafficked and include dead ends,” according to Dawkins.

Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) has reached out to the mayor’s office and the Sanitation Department about snow from tertiary streets being plowed into the driveway of the EMS department and blocking access, a spokesman said.

Dawkins said the third-party contractors are only called in to plow the tertiary streets if snow totals reach 6 inches or more. Once called, the companies have eight hours to respond with equipment and Sanitation may follow up on how much plowing has been completed, despite complaints from residents that not much is being done at all.

“Sanitation field supervisors do periodically check the work done by the private contractors,” Dawkins said.

According to Dawkins, the city pays contractors $125,000 each time they are called in to help with plowing and they are also paid a standby fee of $275,000. The outside contractors are not responsible for salting the tertiary streets, which Dawkins said the city does on its own after each snowfall.

Sanitation said it is working to make sure streets are plowed as planned and said residents with complaints should call 311 to report them.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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