Western Queens making progress digging out from the blizzard of 2016

30th Avenue Astoria
THE COURIER/Photo by Katrina Medoff

Three days after the Blizzard of 2016 completely covered the city in snow, western Queens residents and city agencies are still shoveling and plowing their way out.

Many people, including elected officials, took to social media to express their frustration with the city for not handling the several feet of snow dumped on Queens in a quicker manner. The blizzard was the second largest snowstorm in the city’s history, and some Queens neighborhoods were hit with 30 inches or more of snow.

Florence Koulouris, district manager for Community Board 1, which covers Astoria, said she spoke with the Sanitation Department to get a better idea of the cleanup efforts in the district. According to Koulouris, the trucks that ran through Astoria are equipped with GPS monitoring to adequately mark which blocks have been plowed.

“According to my conversations with Sanitation, I was informed that they hit every block in our district,” Koulouris said. “However, because of the amount of snow, it is still very evident that there is a hardship in the district.”

Koulouris said Astoria was the first neighborhood to have every block plowed, but there are still some problem areas such as bus stops and corners that have not been thoroughly cleaned. She also noted that Astoria is home to several alley houses, which make it difficult for large sanitation trucks to maneuver in those streets. Still, she believes that the city agency is working diligently to remove snow.

“This is an active nature,” Koulouris said. “It’s a lot of snow. There’s no precedent. I think everybody is doing the best they can.”

The city “admittedly got caught off guard at the volume of snow from the historic blizzard, which dumped a record-setting 30.5 inches of snow at JFK airport,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said in a statement.

“Our city, however, is getting a handle on this huge storm relatively quickly thanks to strong teamwork and advance planning among all city agencies, including the Sanitation, Transportation, Fire and Police Departments and the Office of Emergency Management,” she added.

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited neighboring Sunnyside and Woodside on Monday afternoon after mentioning those neighborhoods in a Monday morning press conference, when he expressed his disappointment in the plowing efforts in the borough.

“I didn’t see the kind of results I wanted in Sunnyside, Woodside, Elmhurst, Corona,” he said.

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said in a press conference that 740 snowplows, spreaders and rear loaders were directed to the borough at the height of the storm. More than 900 were working through Queens by midafternoon on Sunday, she said.

She added that Queens is the largest borough and has the most lane miles ― more than 6,300 lane miles out of the total 19,000 in the city ― which makes the cleanup effort more difficult.

In addition, the borough recorded the most snowfall, with 34 inches hitting Jackson Heights.

State Senator Jose Peralta was a vocal critic of the city on Monday, saying the lack of response in some western Queens neighborhoods was “unacceptable.”

“We must learn from this experience and build upon the mistakes that were made in order to be better prepared for future storms,” Peralta said in a statement.

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