Remote NYC neighborhoods more isolated by storm
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) — Bill Farrell turned his orange Chevrolet truck down a side street packed with snow in his quiet corner of Queens. Five hours later, he was still there, trying to clear enough snow to back his car out of a drift.
“I thought I could make it,” the retired sanitation worker said ruefully.
Farrell, 55, was trying to deliver the newspaper to the rows of suburban-style homes where the snow drifts piled higher than Christmas decorations. The basic service of newspaper delivery was one of many that have eluded his neighbors in Howard Beach since a snowstorm dropped 20 inches on the city. He hadn’t seen many in Queens for two days, he said.
In Howard Beach — 1 1/2 hours by subway from midtown Manhattan skyscrapers, and freshly plowed streets — the storm has made isolated pockets of the city even more remote and fueled politicians’ outrage that other neighborhoods were favored by city street plows.
“The lack of attention to secondary streets is shocking,” state Sen.-elect Tony Avella wrote city officials Tuesday. “(Even Main Street by the U.S. Post Office has not been plowed.)”
The cost of the storm, in neighborhood after neighborhood far from the city’s center, went beyond snowed-in streets. Subways and buses ground to a halt, particularly on the elevated tracks more common in outer boroughs and susceptible to snow drifts. Farrell’s stop on the A train didn’t reopen until Tuesday after snow and ice piled up on the tracks, stranding hundreds of commuters for hours.
Farrell shoveled his car out of hip-high snowdrifts Tuesday afternoon. A spindly snowman stood sentinel in the middle of a residential street before being quickly topped by a snow plow. Pedestrians in hiking boots squeezed past each other in the narrow pathways between sidewalk snowbanks.
Most small businesses were open along Cross Bay Boulevard, the neighborhood’s main drag, though snow was piled high in front of a Japanese restaurant.
Farrell was trying to deliver the Daily News when he got stuck in the street at 5 a.m. Tuesday.
“My guy that drops them off by me, he never made it to the depot,” Farrell said. “He said nobody got papers.”
A few blocks away, Chris Wierzbicki shoveled out his driveway to clear a path for his mother-in-law. “She’s got to get to Social Security tomorrow,” he said.
About 50 blocks north, in Ozone Park, Willem Buis was trying to help his neighbors get out of their front doors.
“I just came from an old man who is 83 and hasn’t shoveled on the corner there,” said Buis, who is 73. “I started at 9, I stopped for an hour. Over three hours already, and it’s still not done.”
Buis was at his weekend job as an Access-a-Ride dispatcher during the height of the storm Sunday. He said 12 vehicles got stuck in the snow. The city said on Tuesday that hundreds of buses and dozens of ambulances were stuck on snow-packed streets, slowing plowing efforts.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said ambulance drivers probably erred in driving down unplowed roads. He said they should have remained on cleared streets and walked down those streets to respond to calls.
Hayden Hunt was upset about a stuck ambulance he’d seen in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.
“Now how you expecting somebody having a heart attack, you’re going to help them out and the ambulance can’t even get through?” he asked.
Hunt was waiting with a dozen other people at a bus stop in Bed-Stuy.
Then word came from a woman who seemed to know what she was talking about: The B46 bus wasn’t running because some of the streets on its route weren’t plowed yet.
Semone Lucas had waited an hour.
“Now come to find out it’s not even coming at all, and it’s just through word of mouth,” said Lucas, who was trying to visit a friend at Kings County Hospital.
“There isn’t anyone here.”
Many of the side streets in Sheepshead Bay and eastern Brooklyn were still untouched by snow crews as of late Tuesday night. With cars and buses trapped in snow banks and only the main roads safe enough for driving, many residents were walking to wherever they had to go.
Artem Shmeriga, 20, of Sheepshead Bay, was stuck in Bensonhurst for two days until he finally made the 3 1/2-mile trek home by foot Tuesday.
“I was walking along Avenue X and it was like something from ’I Am Legend.’ There were six or seven buses pulled over and cars everywhere — even on sidewalks,” Shmeriga said. “It was very creepy.”
Steve Tropper, 62, of Brooklyn, saw much of the same during his 16 hours of driving for a car service Tuesday — and his shift was far from over.
“The main streets are cleared, but they didn’t even start plowing the avenues until 5 tonight, and the side streets still haven’t been plowed,” Tropper said shortly before midnight Tuesday. “It was atrocious. If I was grading the mayor, I’d give him a ’C’ on this one.”
Tropper said he counted seven stranded buses on a one-mile stretch of Coney Island Avenue.
Associated Press writers Sara Kugler Frazier and Marco Mulcahy contributed to this report.