Friday, January 28, 2011

Snow, politics and the media

So there's been a lot of snow lately. There was one big blizzard that started on Boxing Day and dumped more than a foot of snow on the city. From what I heard on the news and read in the papers, it was a complete disaster. Some streets were unplowed for days, nobody could get anywhere, and several people died. Then there was another storm last week, but that was smaller and the city cleared it up much quicker. This past Wednesday night there was another foot of snow, and so far everyone seems pretty happy with it.

Reading this kind of bullshit makes me feel like I'm living in an alternate universe. I had no real trouble with the first snowfall, because I didn't really go out much. It was the week after Christmas, I was on vacation! Where did I need to go? I went to the supermarket around the corner, and they had plenty of food. I went to the cafe a few blocks away and had a nice panini.

Sure there were huge mounds of snow everywhere, but I've got good boots. There was a dump truck stuck in the middle of my street for several hours, and it took three front-end loaders to pull it free, but people drove on the other streets. The street next to my kid's school was completely blocked with a big snowbank, but that made it a lot safer for the kids to cross. After a day or two, the sidewalks and crosswalks were shoveled, the trains and buses were running, and we could all get around the city.

Okay, so I was on vacation, but a guy I know in the neighborhood had no trouble either. He had one customer across the street, another two blocks away, and a third around the corner. That's the value of working locally. Some other neighbors worked from home via the internet, and others just got the day off. Nobody had to go into Manhattan, or anywhere else, on December 27, and not too many people really had to go in on the 28th either.

Now obviously some people needed to go to the hospital, couldn't get help and died. That's a real shame and a problem, and we shouldn't minimize it. People were stranded for hours on subway trains, really locked in without a chance to get off and walk somewhere, and that's not good at all. As far as I'm concerned, those were the only two serious problems that resulted from the government's handling of the snow situation, and what we needed to do was focus on how to avoid those problems in the future. But that wasn't the focus in the City Council or in the media.

I was mildly amused at first to see reporters like Greg Mocker wailing about the streets that weren't plowed, and it was kind of fun to listen to that amateur cameraman hyperventilating as he watched a City tractor demolish a City-owned SUV that some bureaucrat had unnecessarily left parked on a Brooklyn Heights side street. But all that got old really quick, and I started feeling pretty annoyed hearing City Council members like David "Kvetch" Greenfield working themselves into a lather over which side street got plowed when.

Still, I was only annoyed. But then I started to get angry, and now I'm seriously pissed. I'll tell you why in my next post, but some of you may already know, because you're feeling the same way.


Anonymous said...

"Nobody had to go into Manhattan, or anywhere else, on December 27, and not too many people really had to go in on the 28th either."


Cap'n Transit said...


Alon Levy said...

What if my flight back to New York had been on the 27th and not on the 1st? I'd say those of us who live in Manhattan (and not commute from, say, Tarrytown or wherever else the bikes-are-toys reporters live) have a damn good reason to go there.

Cap'n Transit said...

Well, sure, Alon, corridors to and from the airports should have been a high priority - and were, I believe.

capt subway said...

The constant whining about the snow is in great part one more manifestation of the degree to which people live in transit and mixed used starved suburbs and exurbs and are totally enslaved to their cars. And parts of the outer 4 boroughs are similar to the burbs in that regard. Trouble is few people, even here in the city, think outside the box, never think to just put on their snowshoes and WALK!
I've lived in Forest Hills, Queens for years, don't own a car, (although I could buy a new one for cash tomorrow) walk everywhere - in the snow or in 90 degree heat - and take the subway to work or play.

Helen Bushnell said...

If planes can take off and leave, buses and trains can run.

After our last snowstorm here in Colorado, I was basically trapped in my house because the sidewalks were covered by the snow from the street. I think that plowing every street can trap more people in their homes than not plowing them.

capt subway said...

Well that makes sense. After all, you've got to keep the streets clear so people can drive their cars. Plow the snow up onto the sidewalk. To hell with the stupid, poor schmucks who are such pathetic losers they can't afford to buy a car and thus are forced to walk.

BruceMcF said...

I'm assuming that big cities cannot afford sidewalk snowplows, like we have in a town in one of the more rural counties of Northeast Ohio.

Of course, we only have the one, so its focused on the main street shops and the main walking paths to schools, so when they opened up the new high school, which is much further from the street we leave, our sidestreet lost its sidewalk snowplowing status.

For cycling, its no big handicap, since any road conditions that cars can make it through on my mountain bike can make it through on.

Alon Levy said...

In New York, plowing the sidewalk is the responsibility of building owners, i.e. their superintendents. The problems are that the empty lots don't get plowed, and the curb access allowing people to cross the street is deficient.

Helen Bushnell said...

Sidewalk plows? I am envious. I have never lived in a city that had even one.

Right now, you can see a picture that could have been my block during the last snowstorm, if you click on the link to "Providence: Obviously, someone is trying to make me angry" in the Streetsblog box. Only the snowplows managed that effect with a lot less snow.