Was the slow snow removal in New York City the result of a planned Sanitation Department protest to make the Mayor pay for reducing their staff? That’s what several whistleblowers are reportedly saying, according to the New York Post.
UPDATE: At a news conference this morning, the Mayor called the allegations an “outrage,” and both he and the Sanitation Commissioner vowed to investigate.
City Councilman Dan Halloran told the Post that he was visited Wednesday by three snow plow operators and two Department of Transportation supervisors who said their bosses told them to “make the Mayor pay” with intentional foot dragging and goldbricking for budget cutbacks and staff reductions. They say they purposefully drove over streets with plows raised above street level so they would have to make more passes and could claim more overtime. They say other tactics included skipping over streets and only plowing streets that had been assigned to them. Others claim some workers intentionally sabotaged blows and salt spreaders. Mostly the workers said they were told to keep their plows off most streets and wait for further instructions.
The Sanitation Department denied the accusations outright. A spokesman told the Post, “There are no organized or wildcat actions being taken by the sanitation workers or the supervisors.” A union spokesman representing agency supervisors called the story “hogwash” but acknowledged that there was “resentment” in the ranks towards the Mayor. In response to the claims a Bloomberg spokesman would only say, “We would hope this is not the case.”
Meanwhile, New York magazine reports that the major factor in delaying snow removal was that the Mayor didn’t declare a snow emergency until Sunday morning, even thought the National Weather Center had issued a winter-storm watch the morning prior. Because of the low snow threat level, city buses kept operating, and without chains. This left tons of buses stranded across the city when the storm hit, blocking intersections and clogging roads. And it wasn’t until Sunday at 8 am that the Sanitation Department brought in outside workers to help, too late to mobilize and make an impact. Further complicating matters were that 100 of the snow plow operators were totally green, getting their training on the job on Sunday.
In the midst of the storm, a newborn died 10 hours after her mother gave birth inside a snow-bound lobby in Crown Heights. Plows hadn’t cleared the streets and emergency responders couldn’t get to them in time.
The whistleblowers claims should be thoroughly investigated. And the Mayor needs to be called to task for not raising the hue and cry soon enough. That it was Christmas isn’t an excuse. If anything it made the need for an effective and aggressive response more urgent.
There’s a lot of outrage out there and accusations and finger pointing is flying left and right. It’ll be interesting to see what gets revealed as the snow melts.
Sanitation Department’s slow snow cleanup was a budget protest [New York Post]