New York City is getting ready for its first snow (and its removal) of the winter. As I was born in a country that comes to a screeching halt when cold weather hits, it’s impressive to see how New York deals with wintertime.
New York City and the snow
The first snow of the winter in New York is big news. I first realized this during a visit to NYC when I still lived in Europe. The city was expecting up to 3 feet of snow (that’s about a meter), and Mayor Bloomberg came on TV to warn New Yorkers about the approaching storm. Next to him was the sanitation commissioner. When the mayor asked the people of New York not to put out their garbage that night, I imagined he wanted to avoid creating snow-covered obstacles for pedestrians.
To my surprise, the next day I walked into the street and found out that the Sanitation Department plays a vital role in keeping the city working during snowstorms. In the night leading up to an expected snowfall, the Sanitation Department actually mounts snow plows onto its garbage trucks and adds salt spreaders to its pickups. The city suddenly has its own snow army and full control of operations, without having to call on external firms.
And it worked. Despite snowfall of over 2 feet (more than half a meter), traffic in Manhattan was not jammed more than on any other day. The same week, Belgium had about 4 centimeters (a little over an inch) of snow and had the worst traffic gridlock in its history, with cars abandoned on highways and Brussels Airport closed for a while.
Another observation: New York City seeks volunteers to clean the snow. Anyone who lives here can help the city in its effort to remove snow. New York City pays $12 to $18 per hour for people who take up the shovel. So instead of complaining that it takes a while before your favorite bus stop is cleaned, you can help make it different.
Ever since that first storm I experienced in New York City, I’m fascinated to read about the city’s preparations to keep 8.5 million residents moving on cold, snowy days. Even though our new mayor, Bill de Blasio, admitted he did not do a good job removing snow last year, especially in an area where he lost some votes (hmmm), we’re still far from a Belgium snow scenario. And during a snowstorm, the city now offers a real-time interactive plow track map, allowing New Yorkers to see where snow plows have been and how often they will plow a certain street. That’s service taxpayers can appreciate!
Update 9/2015: NYC.Gov is updated. The info for volunteering that was found on http://www.nyc.gov/html/dsny/html/pr2014/102214.shtml, is now on www.nycservice.org