City steps up snow removal efforts in Queens

By Madina Toure

Elected officials and residents in Queens said Tuesday some parts of the borough remained unplowed following the weekend blizzard despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that the city Department of Sanitation has plowed nearly all Queens routes since the end of the snowstorm.

The Sanitation Department has plowed up to 97 percent of streets—both primary and secondary streets—at least once, the mayor said Monday, a 26 percent increase since 8:30 p.m. Sunday, according to the latest information on the mayor’s office website.

Only some tertiary streets remained impassable and the Sanitation Department has been focusing plows to those streets in Queens, he said.

But at about 10 a.m. Monday, a dollar van coordinator at the entrance of the E and J train at Parsons Boulevard who was urging commuters to get into the van that goes to Rosedale, said the opposite.

“The main streets have too much traffic,” he said. “And the vans are taking the local side streets—none of them are plowed yet. So it’s taking much longer.”

In Middle Village, most of the streets had been plowed by Tuesday morning. The Sanitation Department brought in front end loaders to remove snow, which had been dumped on top of the unplowed streets as car owners shoveled out.

The sidewalks on the side streets in Bayside were partially shoveled, forcing residents to walk along the street and at the All Saints Episcopal Church at 214-35 40th Ave., the sidewalk in front had been shoveled three times, only to be completely buried when the snow plows came through Tuesday.

Father Larry Byrne of the All Saints Episcopal Church said he shoveled and used a snowblower Saturday and twice again when the storm ended Sunday, putting the snow on the church lawn and not on the street.

But by Monday morning, Byrne said he came out to find at least three feet of snow had been plowed back onto the sidewalks up against the exterior walls of the church.

“We’re supposed to have the sidewalks clear, so when the Department of Sanitation comes and pushes all the snow back on cleared paths, it really seems like the city is working against itself here,” he said. “I’m just concerned, this is now too much even for a snowblower to handle.”

In an interview with NY1 Monday, de Blasio said the situation in the borough is a “mixed bag” after he visited neighborhoods such as South Jamaica, Flushing, Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside, East Elmhurst and Corona. He toured around Woodside with City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

“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 focusing on them,” de Blasio told NY1 Monday.

Numerous streets throughout the borough had piles of snow blocking streets and crosswalks Monday, with residents having to walk in the streets.

The Sanitation Department has more than 2,000 pieces of snow clearing equipment out, the mayor said.

Of those 2,000 pieces, more than 900 were being used for snow removal in Queens, where some areas recorded more than 30 inches of snow, he continued.

De Blasio said the city Parks Department has deployed more than 50 plows and more than 60 salt operation vehicles to help with snow removal in Queens and 285 snow operation staff in the borough Monday.

The mayor issued a travel advisory for Monday through Friday for potential black ice.

The National Weather Service forecasts daytime temperatures Tuesday through Friday to range between mid-30s to mid-40s but that nighttime temperatures will fall to near or below freezing.

Schools opened Monday morning and regular programming, including after-school activities, was going on as scheduled. LIRR, have resumed.

Service resumed on the Long Island Rail Road after being suspended until Monday afternoon.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.