Long Island was hit with a winter storm on Jan. 4 that wreaked havoc across the Northeast. Transit was delayed, schools were closed and work commutes were snarled, but it was the aftermath that caused a headache for Oceansiders seeking relief from the snow.
“The snow removal was handled very poorly,” resident Seth Blau told the Herald. “I don’t remember a time when it was so bad. I’m not even talking about the day of the storm. I’m talking about 7 p.m. Friday night on my way home from work, a full day afterward.”
A number of Facebook threads from that day and the days following, posted on various Oceanside community group sites, were dedicated to complaints that the efforts to remove snow from the streets and sidewalks were unsatisfactory. The online discussions continued until a week later.
During the storm, several Oceansiders wrote that they hadn’t seen Town of Hempstead plows or salt trucks on the streets during the snowfall, and that afterward, the plows only cleared one lane, not curb to curb. Many people posted pictures of their uncleared streets as the snow continued to fall.
A Facebook user listed as Woody Landhater, who — according to a photo he posted to Town Supervisor Laura Gillen’s official Facebook page — lives at the end of a dead-end street in Oceanside, wrote in a separate group, “Say what you want about Anthony Santino. At least my street was plowed sometime during a storm (and we had a lot worse storms than this)!! Where are the plows?”
Town spokesman Mike Fricchione told the Herald that the prevalence of dead-end and one-way streets in Oceanside might have been a factor. “We can’t say definitively whether Oceanside was hit harder than others,” he said, adding that town officials were putting together a “comprehensive report” on the cleanup efforts.
“We’re looking at all that data to find out exactly what happened,” Fricchione said. “We’ve gotten comments and calls through social media, online, phone calls. They’re all in different places, so we’re putting them all together.” He said that the report — which will examine residents’ complaints as well as response times and GPS data from the plows — will likely be released before the end of the month.
Fricchione added, “The fact that [the storm] coincided with the administration’s third day in office isn’t a reflection of the kinds of future changes and upgrades that we are promising to bring to the town’s snow-removal operations.”
He also noted that Gillen’s chief of staff, Jim LaCarrubba, is a former commissioner of Long Beach’s Department of Public Works who played a lead role in the city’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy.
“Jim LaCarrubba is a highly respected expert in the field of emergency management,” Fricchione said, “and is an invaluable asset to the town as we review the old administration’s procedures and snow-removal protocol before making the necessary adjustments and improvements for future storms.”
Some comments cited the high winds and low temperatures that followed the storm as justification for the sometimes-late plows. User Lourdes Ojeda noted, “The wind [makes] visibility close to zero and dangerous for anyone, [including plows,] to maneuver.” Kathy Farrell Natoli posted a video of a plow getting stuck in the high snowdrifts.
Other users wondered whether Oceanside’s Sanitation Department could attach plows to the front of their trucks and assist with the snow removal. Ed Scharfberg, a commissioner and spokesman for Sanitary District No. 7, said that “there would have to be some type of municipal agreement between us and the town,” adding, “You don’t pay taxes to sanitation for snow removal. You pay taxes to the town for that.”
Lawson Boulevard was cited numerous times by Facebook commenters as a troubled area. A user named Robert Klein complained, “Lawson Boulevard goes to one lane because one business pushed his snow into the street.”
Four days after the storm, user Frank Morizio Junior posted photos from the intersection of Lawson and Weidner, near the Long Island Rail Road station, and wrote about his experience there. “Tonight at 8:30 walking across Lawson on Weidner. No cut-out at the corner. Climbed over mounds of snow to find that no one has cleared the sidewalk. It’s the parking lot sidewalk so no businesses there to shovel. This is a disgrace.” He added that he didn’t want to point fingers. The parking lot is the property of the town. Lawson Boulevard is a Nassau County road.
Oceansiders also noted on Facebook that curb-to-curb clearing might have been more successful if there were no cars parked on the street.
Fricchione said that in the future, it would help the town’s snow-removal efforts if residents could provide town officials with more information about the conditions they are witnessing.
“It would be helpful if people could take a picture with their phone and send it to the town,” he said. “It’ll give us a real-time view of the problem areas. The more information you provide, the better, because then we can start comparing it to other people’s reports, and picking up trends and responding.”