Borough recovers after being ignored during city snowstorm

By Madina Toure

Elected officials and residents said Queens was faring a bit better at mid-week after expressing frustration over the slow cleanup from the blizzard that left streets impassable in some neighborhoods.

The second worst snowstorm in the city’s history dumped as much as 34 inches on Jackson Heights and buried some central Queens thoroughfares in drifts, but other parts of the borough were back to normal two days after the blizzard struck.

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Queens twice after the storm and conceded that the city could have done a better job in certain parts. He also pointed out that heavy snowfall can pose major problems for Queens because the borough has the largest land area and the most roads.

Borough President Melinda Katz said the city was unprepared for the ferocity of the storm, but city agencies still performed well.

Along Main Street in downtown Flushing Wednesday morning, it appeared to be business as usual. Although there were still piles of snow, the sidewalks were clear for pedestrians to walk and roads were clear for drivers.

Sally Lien, a cashier at the Yizhou store at 40-20 Main St. said the situation had improved, noting that people initially struggled to cross the street and that she saw elders falling because they did not have their canes.

But she was disgusted by the smelly garbage in front of her store.

“No one clean(ed) it,” Lien said.

On Bell Boulevard in Bayside, the sidewalks were also clear for pedestrians. Two city Department of Sanitation trucks and five city Department of Transportation workers were seen clearing the snow.

As of Wednesday morning, every street in Queens had been plowed and made passable, and there were 912 sanitation workers with 731 pieces of equipment in the borough, according to Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for the mayor. There were also 89 front end loaders doing piling and hauling operations in Queens, she said.

The MTA said subway service was back to normal by Sunday morning, buses were running with some delays and the LIRR was on track by Monday afternoon.

The mayor visited Astoria, Long Island City, Flushing, East Elmhurst, Corona, Jamaica Sunday and Woodside Monday.

In an interview with NY1 Monday while he was touring Woodside with City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), the mayor said the situation in the borough was a “mixed bag.”

“A lot of good work has been done here by the Sanitation Department, but we also see some streets that definitely need more work today – that we’re going to focus on them,” de Blasio said.

Van Bramer found the cleanup was not occurring as the mayor had said, especially in Woodside and Sunnyside.

After the mayor toured those two communities and other parts of Van Bramer’s district, resources started trickling in.

Katz said the constituent services unit at Borough Hall was working closely with the city Department of Sanitation.

“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,” Katz said.

Over in southern Queens, which was buried in snow, City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) held a news conference at which he accused the mayor of failing Queens by not providing the manpower or equipment needed for the cleanup.

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) received over two dozen calls, emails and social media messages from angry Whitestone, College Point and Auburndale residents who had not seen a plow for two days, but the complaints had stopped by Wednesday.

“The administration clearly mishandled the allocation of resources and we need answers as to why Queens was not made a priority when it was the borough that received the most snow,” Vallone said.

City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said the city’s snow plow tracker had inaccurate information, which interfered with the cleanup.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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