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Brooklyn, Queens Residents Upset Over Unplowed Streets

ElectionsNew York WeatherWeather ReportsVehiclesRegional Authority

A windy winter storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on New York City also whipped up criticism about how the city responded to it.

Some New Yorkers in the outer boroughs complained that the city took too long to plow their neighborhoods, ignoring them in favor of wealthier Manhattan areas.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the fast pace of snowfall -- 2 to 3 inches per hour at some periods overnight -- and the amount of people who abandoned cars in the road delayed the progress of the plows.

"Those cars have to be towed before plowing can resume, which really slows things up," he said.

Officials said crews were concentrating on main roadways and warned that side streets might not be cleared until Tuesday.

For the record, the city deployed 1,600 plows for a snowstorm that delivered 20.9 inches in February, as measured in Central Park. For this latest winter blast -- which dropped 20 inches -- 1,700 plows, plus 365 salt spreaders that were converted into plows, were working on the streets.

Fire officials said the unplowed roads were slowing their responses to emergencies, and snowbound residents in Brooklyn and Queens said many streets, including main thoroughfares, were impossible to traverse, making it difficult to get to work.

At New Enrico's Car Service in Queens, all 90 taxis in the fleet were grounded -- either trapped under snow drifts or stuck on impassable streets.

"I'm furious at Mayor Bloomberg, he's a rich man, so he doesn't care about the little people," said livery driver Julio Carpio, speaking in Spanish. "I have to work, why aren't people out there plowing? Why does the mayor always go on TV the night before to say, 'We're all set with a fleet of salt trucks,'? and then you never see a single truck. They always abandon Queens."

Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent and billionaire who barely tolerates complaining, downplayed concerns and encouraged New Yorkers to enjoy the snow or take advantage of the unexpected free time by attending a Broadway show.

"There's no reason for everybody to panic," he said. "Our city is doing exactly what you'd want it to do."

Snowstorms can bring a chill to a mayor's popularity among his constituents.

A 1969 storm dumped a little more than a foot of snow in New York City but dogged then-Mayor John Lindsay for many months afterward, contributing to his narrow re-election win that year. Some streets in Queens weren't cleared for days, and Lindsay was accused of harboring a Manhattan-centric attitude.

Late in the day on Monday, as criticism began to build, Bloomberg headed to a southwest Queens neighborhood to greet residents at a local bakery. He also made a stop in Brooklyn and was heading to Staten Island.

State Sen. Carl Kruger, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn, called the city's response to the storm a "colossal failure."

"Forecasters predicted this blizzard days in advance," Kruger said. "There was clearly insufficient planning, and New Yorkers are paying too steep a price. Someone has to be accountable."

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Associated Press writers Samantha Henry and Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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