The first signs of spring have surfaced in Queens despite Mother Nature’s tenacious hold on the borough.
The homeless man who held court in the Woodside LIRR/7 line station for months during the coldest days of winter has decamped. In single-digit weather he sat on the benches in a blue track suit with his moccasins parked on a Duane Reed bag surrounded by piles of personal belongings in plastic bags.
Asked where the mysterious fellow had gone, a Long Island Rail Road clerk said simply: “He went outside.”
He may have departed too soon, however, because the Equinox’s arrival March 20 coincided with a wet snowfall that briefly transformed the familiar Queens landscape into a frosted fairyland. But the sidewalks and roads trumpeted a less romantic image: slush city.
By the next day DOT crews were out again on their mission to repairs the thousands of potholes littering the streets. Many craters in Queens have taken their toll on motorists’ tires and given their shocks a good run for the money.
Some brave snowdrops have poked up through the ground, even in lingering patches of snow in some spots. During a reprieve in the weather Sunday, volunteers at the Queens Botanical Gardens readied the earth for the planting season this weekend. It was a noble effort, but the mercury dipped into the 20s that night as a reminder that Nature still was not prepared to abandon Queens.
There were other harbingers of the new season.
The New York Mets held auditions to find a singer to perform The National Anthem at Citi Field for the September subway series.
At least 70 hopefuls turned up for the 60-second tryouts, including one contender who brought his own tuba.
On the grimmer side of the roster, the MTA hiked fares on anything that moves in the city while conceding that 25 percent of all subways have been running late.
And in a disturbing trend, milder weather ushered in the murder of a 21-year-old man in Glendale during the first spring weekend in Queens. Police were still searching for the triggerman.
But one upbeat rite of spring remained unchanged. Hundreds of motorists around the borough lined up at car washes to get what they hoped was winter’s farewell residue off their vehicles.
We’ve got our fingers crossed that they’re right.