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Report Buries Claims Of Worker Slowdown During Blizzard

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TWC News: Report Buries Claims Of Worker Slowdown During Blizzard
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A report issued Friday concludes that the slow clean-up after December's blizzard was not the result of a deliberate slowdown by city sanitation workers.

The city's Department of Investigation found that, in many cases, plows simply got stuck in the snow.

Since the storm, allegations had surfaced that Department of Sanitation workers deliberately avoided plowing many of the city's streets. The DOI says it looked into those claims and says there was no such evidence of a slowdown.

However, the report details a number of reasons why the public may have thought that sanitation workers were slacking off on the job.

"We don't have evidence of a deliberate, concerted slow down in the City of New York, in this day and age, under such difficult and dangerous circumstances. I think that's a good thing," said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.

The report found several instances where trucks got stuck in the snow and workers were told to stay with their vehicles. The report says that this gave New Yorkers a negative impression of the clean-up effort because those sanitation workers were seen napping, buying coffee or food.

There was one case, in Brooklyn, where sanitation workers in a stranded vehicle did buy beer. The DOI recovered a portion of surveillance footage from the store that clearly showed sanitation workers buying booze.

DOI says one of the big problems also appears to be with the sanitation department's snow chains. Investigators found that a whopping 44 percent of snow chains used after the blizzard broke during the cleanup.

The report also shows dozens of sanitation workers took issue with the city's decision to stop salting streets on the day of the storm.

City Councilwoman Letitia James, who chairs the Council's sanitation committee says she never thought city workers were responsible for the mess.

"It was the lack of management, the lack of communication, the lack of transparency, the failure of equipment, the inferior products. And yes, the men and women of the Department of Sanitation obviously need an apology," James said.

The initial report of a possible slowdown came from Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran who said sanitation workers told him about it.

According to the DOI report, Halloran refused to tell investigators who he had spoken with and did not give them any information that showed a possible slowdown had occurred.

In a statement, the Queens Councilman fired back saying, in part, "As the report states, the DOI was unable to track employees and get the quality of testimony it would like to have. I am hopeful that the City can move on and fix the many problems that plagued the snowstorm response."

The DOI has passed along its findings to the district attorneys of Queens and Brooklyn, as well as to the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of New York.

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