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NYC snow cleanup in next phase: Clear the piles

Dan Kelly, 59, volunteers to clear snow from

Dan Kelly, 59, volunteers to clear snow from a sidewalk near his Woodside home on Jan. 26, 2016. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Sanitation workers Tuesday tackled a new phase of removing the 26.8 inches of snow a weekend storm had dumped on New York City, hauling it away in trucks to be melted while clearing the few streets that remained clogged in Queens.

Front-end loaders — 200 of which were in Queens — were removing snow and slush “scoop by scoop” on roads too narrow to accommodate traditional plows, city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said in Flushing where she demonstrated the use of a snow-melting machine.

Where streets were open, crews were reducing the giant piles pushed to the sides by the plows.

The melter works “like a giant hot tub,” using hydrant water to dissolve approximately 60 tons of snow per hour and drain the liquid into the sewer system, she said.

“We are taking the snow away and really getting rid of it for the city of New York,” she said. “We know that it’s been a really tough few days to get around in the city.”

Their job was made easier by the warmer temperatures — it reached the upper 40s Tuesday afternoon — and in some instances, the snow was being spread thin and left to melt under the sun, Garcia said.

Workers would be out “full force” at least through Sunday, Garcia said. Her agency was still hiring laborers at $13.50 per hour to help with snow removal.

The city had collected 72.5 million tons of snow, enough to fill Yankee Stadium 66 times, City Hall officials said.

Nearly 100 percent of Queens streets have been plowed since the storm ended, officials said.

But some pockets were still digging out Tuesday afternoon, and elected officials from Queens said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration should have responded as quickly and efficiently there as they did in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“People are still frustrated by the consistent neglect,” said State Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat whose district includes Jackson Heights and Corona. Peralta said his office heard from residents struggling to get their kids to school amid snow-packed streets.

Residents said they were seeing progress, however slow.

Aura Villarruel, 25, of Ozone Park, said 84th Street “was completely filled with snow for two days. ... Now it’s getting cleaned up, but it wasn’t like that before.”

In Woodhaven, Brian Carter, 32, applauded the city’s efforts citywide, but added of Queens, “They left us for last.”

Garcia said many Queens communities were aggressively plowed but heavier snowfall and narrower streets posed a challenge in other areas. She said the borough wasn’t neglected.

“That hasn’t been my experience, quite honestly,” she said. “I never heard people felt like they were forgotten, because we never forget anybody.”

With Ann W. Schmidt


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