The Sanitation Department says it is better equipped to handle whatever Mother Nature throws at the city this snow season, especially when it comes to side streets that did not see a plow for days after the big blizzard last winter. Borough Reporter Ruschell Boone has more.
Hoping to avoid a repeat of last January's disastrous cleanup in parts of Brooklyn and Queens, Sanitation Officials say they have made significant changes to the snow removal process.
The agency has purchased $21 million of new equipment to handle some of the narrow streets that large trucks cannot navigate and to replace private contractors for routine plowing.
"We have enough equipment that we can handle the tertiary streets more effectively and more efficiently," said Henry Ehrhardt Director of Community Affairs for the Department of Sanitation. "We will still use private contractors on call for plowing and hauling operations, but all of the snow plowing and salting as far as regular operations are concerned will be done by department personnel this year."
And that personnel has received a significant amount of training compared to previous years. Several drills were on the street and not at a training facility.
"In the past, the way we did snow training was at our training center in Brooklyn and sometimes we had the training during the week so as much as we wanted to be focused on the training we really couldn't as much as we did," said one sanitation official.
New equipment to clear bike lanes, crosswalks and bus stops has also been added. And the city has updated its GPS technology to better inform the public about which streets have been plowed.
Sanitation officials made their presentation at a Queens Borough Cabinet meeting where they told local community board leaders and the Borough President that an additional 174 workers have been assigned to Queens this winter. Queens residents were critical of the agency's response to January's blizzard.
"I will tell you that the amount of information and the new vehicles and the training and the preparedness for the smaller streets is giving us great hope that this year everybody will be prepared," said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
Sanitation says it handled the last blizzard very well overall, but they wanted to address the problem areas that crippled some neighborhoods for days.