Blizzards pose precarious challenges for New York City mayors when the snow piles up on Queens’ streets and the plows are slow to dig out residents.
De Blasio earned failing grades for impassable roads and buried cars in some Queens neighborhoods during the blizzard of 2016, which brought back memories of two predecessors imperiled by outrage in the county after heavy snows.
Back in 1969, when John Lindsay was mayor and 20 inches of snow crippled the borough for a week, he was roundly blamed for ignoring eastern Queens, where he was pelted by snowballs as he toured the snow-bound streets. UN Under-Secretary Ralph Bunche, who lived in Kew Gardens, sent a telegram to City Hall three days after the storm, saying not a single snowplow had been sighted.
The Feb. 10, 1969 nor’easter, known as the “Lindsay Snowstorm,” cost him the GOP primary for re-election, but he won a second term on the Liberal Party line.
Michael Bloomberg had his own debacle on Dec. 26, 2010 when a blizzard paralyzed the city, left some Queens streets unplowed for days and halted subways, buses and the LIRR for an extended period.
The mayor and many of his top aides were out of town for the holidays. Bloomberg refused to disclose his whereabouts, but The New York Times traced his private jet to Bermuda. City Hall was dogged by unfounded rumors started by Bayside City Councilman Dan Halloran that the Sanitation Department was engaged in a labor dispute plot to slow down plowing.
Bloomberg, who was in his third term, faced bitter accusations from Queens that he favored Manhattan and ignored the rest of the city when the near catastrophic snowstorms hit. His administration’s feet were held to the fire at several hearings.
Despite the outcry over snow-choked side streets in parts of Queens, de Blasio’s track record was far better in the second-worst snowstorm in city history.
Subway service resumed the day after the storm, the main thoroughfares in Queens were cleared by Monday and most of the borough was liberated from blocked streets by Tuesday evening.
The mayor has promised to investigate the snow clearance delays in Queens, which topped the city charts at 34 inches. As the largest borough with the most roads, we should have a dedicated snow emergency plan in the City Hall manual because of the Queens Effect.
De Blasio dodged the snowballs this time around by leading the overall city to a strong comeback even though pockets of Queens got short shrift.
The Report Card from Queens: Lindsay F, Bloomberg D, de Blasio B-minus.