Southern Brooklynites left buried during the late December blizzard want Mayor Bloomberg to pay for his inaction — literally.
“I want a refund,” outraged Gerritsen Beach resident Janet Behrens told council members at the Feb. 10 southern Brooklyn hearing on the city’s poor handling of the holiday blizzard. “It was five days before I saw a plow or a salt truck on my block. It was outright ridiculous.”
Behrens said she didn’t know just how the city should pay for its goof, but the message was clear: Southern Brooklyn should be compensated in some way for being left under two feet of snow — while Manhattan was cleared within hours.
Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park), who demanded that one of the city’s blizzard hearings be held in Marine Park Junior High School since Marine Park was one of the neighborhoods hardest hit, said that the city could pay the community back by coming clean on just how many plows and salt spreaders Sanitation Garage 18 — which covers everything east of Kings Highway from Marine Park to Canarsie — has.
“They have only have seven salt spreaders, and two of those are dedicated to major routes like Nostrand Avenue and Kings Highway,” Fidler said. “That means [large areas of the neighborhoods] aren’t being served at all.”
Residents told horror stories about how they were trapped in their homes, forced to miss work and completely cut off from important services such as buses, hospitals and ambulances.
Even the Bensonhurst Volunteer Ambulance Services, which usually pitches in during a crisis, were unable to fill the void — the city never plowed out the base near the corner of 17th Avenue and 84th Street, members said.
“The street wasn’t considered a high priority, so no one was getting in or out” an ambulance volunteer told council members. “We couldn’t even help the people in the nursing home across the street.”
Residents demanded that the city purchase more sanitation equipment, and update its list of high priority roads for plowing, taking into account the additional senior citizen homes and medical facilities on residential streets.
But, most important, they don’t want the city to repeat past mistakes.
“I want to know what you’re going to do to fix it,” Rosemarie Lapalma told the city Department of Sanitation liaison attending the hearing. No other sanitation officials were present. “How is it going to be better next time? When is common sense going to take over?”
The Department of Sanitation says it’s already instituted a new plan to handle future blizzards. The council is also drafting a series of bills it hopes will improve response time as the first flakes fall across the city.
But anything would be better than what transpired on Dec. 26, according to Marine Park resident Charles Simon.
“Waiting for spring doesn’t constitute snow removal,” he said.