By Jon Cronin, Staff Writer
Almost three days after the snowfall, Queens’ residents are still recovering from Winter Storm Jonas, one of the worst snowstorms in the city’s history.
Borough President Melinda Katz, commented on the record-setting volume and how the Borough is reacting.
“The city admittedly got caught off guard at the volume of snow from the historic blizzard, which dumped a record-setting 30.5 inches of snow at JFK airport,” she said in a statement. “Our City, however, is getting a handle on this huge storm relatively quickly thanks to strong teamwork and advance planning among all City agencies, including the Sanitation, Transportation, Fire and Police Departments and the Office of Emergency Management.”
The 30.5 inches of snow at JFK Airport is the largest recorded snowfall in Queens history.
She added, “Our Constituent Services unit at Borough Hall is working closely with the Department of Sanitation to ensure responsiveness to individual areas and streets of Queens that still need attention. If you know of any locations that still need to be cleared of snow, please contact my office at 718-286-2669.”
In South Queens, Councilman Eric Ulrich’s (R- Ozone Park) sentiments were not as conciliatory. On Sunday he took to Facebook to post, “Too many streets in Ozone Park and Woodhaven remain unplowed. I will be giving the Mayor’s Office an earful. This is a disgrace!” He was later infuriated that that Mayor Bill de Blasio kept the school open Monday when side streets still needed the dire attention of city plows.
At a press conference he held in Woodhaven at 85th Road and 96th Avenue late Monday afternoon after talking with local school administration, Ulrich said, “I spoke to principals in my district. They said that attendance was extremely low, that buses were stuck in the snow, and we received lots and lots of complaints from parents wondering why school was open in the first place. Streets like these are [still] inaccessible not only to cars and buses, but to emergency vehicles….What do we want here? We want our fair share of city services. We want to know why the City of New York and why Mayor de Blasio 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. The city failed. They did not do an adequate job of cleaning the streets.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), echoed Ulrich’s statement. He said he appreciated the efforts of the mayor and Department of Sanitation, however he said, “I join my constituents in feeling extremely frustrated with the lack of a quick and appropriate storm response seen in Queens, particularly in my district. Many residents in neighborhoods such as Woodhaven and Maspeth have yet to see a plow on their streets, more than two days after the storm hit. Everyday activities remain at a standstill while communities wait to be unburied from more than two feet of snow, yet Mayor de Blasio failed to see how dangerous it is to have our children attend school on Monday. In my home neighborhood of Ozone Park, school buses were seen getting stuck while trying to navigate unplowed streets near PS 64. As I took my girls to school Monday morning, I witnessed both road and school rage. It is my hope that in the event of another major winter storm, our Mayor makes the more educated and safer decision of closing public schools while cleanup continues.”
The accuracy of the PlowNYC map, and online map and mobile app that tracks the progress of snowplows, was called into question, with several people complaining that the map reported their street plowed when it was not. Among them, 103rd Street in Ozone Park, where a plow got stuck at the height of the blizzard and never returned after the snow stopped until Monday morning. The PlowNYC map showed the street having been visited by a plow at 1:29 p.m. on Sunday, while residents claimed it was not the case. The same thing happened again at 10:02 p.m.
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) stated in the Daily News, “In a truly cruel technological twist, the City’s online, real-time snowplow tracker, PlowNYC, showed many streets as having been recently plowed when clearly they hadn’t been. Really, what inspires greater confidence in your government than standing atop a snow mound in the middle of an unplowed street and looking at an app telling you that the street was plowed a few hours ago?”
Lancman is confident there will be an investigatory hearing on the blizzard response in Queens and the accuracy of the PlowNYC app.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin