NYC plows, crews work to clear snow, ice from streets

Plows make their way along Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side during a snowstorm on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.
Plows make their way along Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side during a snowstorm on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Logo

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised plows will be bustling through New York City streets all through the night to prepare the roads for Wednesday’s commute after a punishing, but underwhelming, snowstorm.

Schools and above-ground subway stations will be open for a regular weekday commute on Wednesday. In the meantime, the mayor warned New Yorkers to leave their cars at home to allow the city to continue clearing the streets.

“I keep cautioning that there’s going to be times when you will not see blacktop on the roads because there’s still a lot of work to do,” de Blasio said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference, just as the snowfall began winding down. “But the more people stay off the street, the faster that work will go.”

Through Tuesday, 2,400 sanitation workers were deployed on 12-hour split shifts, operating some 2,269 salt spreaders and plows through the five boroughs.

The storm made a last-minute shift away from the city, bringing less snowfall than anticipated. But wind gusting up to 50 mph whipped icy snow across the roads, creating a unique challenge for Kathryn Garcia, the Department of Sanitation commissioner.

“Every sheet of ice needs to be treated over again,” said Garcia at the news conference. “Our focus will be on managing the icy roads on the overnight and then very much focusing on schools, bike paths and other pedestrian infrastructure.”

By noon, 87% of city streets had been salted and 96% were plowed at least once, according to de Blasio. Outer-borough roads were still clearly coated with a mix of ice and slush, though, according to city council members who said they had appreciated the city’s efforts thus far.

“Sanitation was out early and often plowing in my district,” said Councilman Steven Matteo, who represents Staten Island’s Mid Island district. “We want people to know that the storm is not over…the issue now is ice.”

Matteo said that during a tour of his district he had already seen sanitation begin addressing access to schools with some of the mini plows that the city acquired after last year’s historic snowstorm crippled the city.

“So far, so good,” said Queens Councilman Rory Lancman, a sharp critic of the city’s snow plow management last year.

Tuesday’s storm brought snow totals that ranged from 4 inches in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, to 8.1 inches in Pelham, the Bronx — much less than the 18 inches that had been forecast. Still, officials said the mayor’s early Monday announcement to close public schools during the storm was appropriate.

“With the information that was presented, it was the right call and helped sanitation today,” Matteo said.

To his part, de Blasio added that he believed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s move to temporarily close above-ground subway stations was smart.

“If the subways stay open too long under the wrong conditions, those trains can get stuck out on the overhead tracks and that’s not good for anyone,” de Blasio said. “So based on what the state knew at the time, I think it was the right decision.”