City’s revised snow plan raises ire in Queens

By Gabriel Rom

As the fallout continues over the city’s response in Queens after a blizzard blanketed part of the borough with 34 inches of snow, George Stoll, president of CSB Contractors, maintains that he would have done a better job of clearing the snow than the city did.

Since 2011, the city has used CSB Contractors to plow minor side streets in central Queens. This year the Sanitation Department assumed responsibility for all the streets in those neighborhoods, as well as about 50 miles of tertiary roadways in Brooklyn that were formerly handled by the company.

“All those neighborhoods you saw buried were mine,” Stoll said.

He had his contract terminated by Sanitation in September 2015 “due to efficiencies expected in the sectoring areas, and the need for contractors to be able to salt tertiary streets,” according to DSNY. DSNY kept a different contractor, Natural Landscapes, for areas in southern and eastern Queens, including Flushing and Jamaica.

Stoll maintains his 20 trucks, mostly pickups, would have successfully covered the streets in Queens latest blizzard.

“They just don’t have enough equipment and people to do these streets,” Stoll said of the department. “Their trucks are just too big. The city has no plan for the tertiaries,” he added.

According to a DSNY Bid Question & Answer document from 2011, the agency told Stoll that “DSNY may be salting while the Contractors are plowing. Contractors may not salt themselves.” Stoll believes that his contract was dropped because DSNY did not want to pay a standby fee to CSB as he says it had in the past.

DSNY officials said that even if the city had kept CSB Contractors, it would not have made a difference on the tertiary streets in Queens.

“The contractor’s conventional equipment consists primarily of pickup trucks with small plows,” said Belinda Mager, a spokeswoman for the DSNY. Mager said that neither equipment from the city or from the contract could have handled the rapid snow accumulation.

“Our 16-ton collection trucks with one-ton plows couldn’t navigate the unprecedented accumulations on those narrow residential streets,” she said. And we still had difficulty on some tertiary streets in Queens and SI where we have contractors assisting us.”

According to DSNY regulations for contractors, failure to completely plow all streets in the district covered by the contract within 24 hours after the end of the blizzard results in a fine of $200 per block not plowed for each hour late.

“They didn’t follow their own guidelines,” Stoll said.

As problems emerged last Sunday, the city moved scores of additional pieces of equipment into Queens. The city’s snow plan for Queens included 173 large salt-spreaders that can be outfitted with plows, 710 trucks available to plow and 62 front-end loaders. Those counts were roughly equal to the previous year’s plan, when 712 trucks were assigned to the borough, 150 large spreaders and the same number of front-end loaders.

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

Yet some streets remained unplowed 36 hours after the storm and residents were livid with what they say was a woefully ineffectual response from the city.

“Commissioner Garcia’s institutional memory doesn’t exist,” said Vincent Arcuri, chairman of Community Board 5, which covers the neighborhoods of Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale “The same streets in our neighborhoods get hit every storm, yet for the city it’s just business as usual.”

In October 2014, Garcia announced that the department had reviewed its own internal operations, strategies and policies in order to improve its future performance during storms.

Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association union, largely approved of the updated procedures but objected to “tertiary contracts” like Stoll’s, which pay private contractors to be on standby to assist the Department of Sanitation with plowing if necessary.

“I wish that those contracts would drop already,” he said.

Eleven months after the review , Stoll’s contract was canceled.

For Arcuri, with or without contractors, Queens, he said, seems to perpetually get short shrift from the city.

“With every storm it’s always the same for Queens,” he said.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at [email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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