Central Queens emerges from snow

By Gabriel Rom

Residents of central Queens say that after days of city negligence their streets have been plowed and their neighborhoods addressed by the mayor in the aftermath of a blizzard that blanketed New York with over two feet of snow. In Jackson Heights as much as 34 inches fell.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) held a press conference Monday afternoon in which he accused the city of failing its duty in Queens.

“We want to know why the city of New York and why Mayor DeBlasio did not dedicate the proper equipment, the proper manpower to cleaning the streets of this community and so many other neighborhoods in the borough of Queens,” Ulrich said. “The city failed.”

Ulrich was part of a growing chorus of Queens lawmakers, civic leaders and residents who contend their streets, especially in central Queens, were neglected by city services after the second largest snowstorm in city history.

The mayor maintains that given difficult circumstances, the city addressed the cleanup in Queens as best it could.

Almost half of the city’s snow-plowing equipment had been diverted to Queens by Monday, according to the mayor’s office.

At a press conference Monday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated that the clean-up effort in Queens could have been better.

“Some areas of Queens were strong, others less so. I was out yesterday in Flushing, South Jamaica, Long Island City and Astoria,” de Blasio said at the Manhattan news conference.

Queens was soon given additional plows totaling 920, more than in any other borough, according to Amy Spitalnik, a spokeswoman for de Blasio.

By Tuesday, the city had fully reallocated its resources to the borough and residents began reporting that clogged side streets were getting due attention.

“Extremely pleased to find out that 88th Avenue in #Woodhaven is getting plowed,” tweeted Alexander Blenkinsopp spokesman for the Woodhaven Residents Block Association.

“Today, vast majority of #Woodhaven streets were very clear,” he added Tuesday. “Many others were sloppy & slushy, but safely passable. I’ll accept that.

Even after the city’s response, civic leaders from Central Queens remained frustrated.

“The city has lost its institutional memory,” said Vincent Arcuri, chairman of Community Board 5. “They should have remembered our last storm and where the bad areas were in Queens. That’s where they should have sent their troops. But it seemed like they were just doing business as usual.”

Amid the chaos, there were also stories of residents banding together to help one another. Numerous videos posted on social media showed Queens pedestrians helping cars stuck in snow to get free.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.