In 2016, we are still somehow unprepared for blizzards, even here in the Northeast. We allot money to cover the plowing and the road repairs that inevitably follow, but still, when we hear that a snowstorm is nigh we scramble, rush off to the grocery store, buy inordinate amounts of toilet paper and bottled water. We prepare in a panic, and when push comes to shove(l), we remain at a loss when the snow actually becomes a reality.
Part of the reason for that is that snow is a confounding force of nature. Despite its beauty, it can be unforgiving and evil. Merely scooping it can kill us. Staying out of it in a warm running car can kill us even faster, as bad luck and lack of awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning would have it.
When we’re not playing with our children in it, it’s hard to see any good in snow. It gets dirty. The salt ruins our shoes and our cars. And when the streets don’t get plowed and neighbors hoard parking spaces with trash cans, it takes the patience of Job not to roll over them (the trash cans, not the neighbors) with our cars — especially after we’ve loaned them our snowblowers and even shoveled their part of the sidewalks. We don’t mind doing those things, in the spirit of camaraderie and neighborliness. But that spirit is rarely reciprocated, as snow seems to make some people bitter and angry, and they take to leaving notes on our cars. (No, we don’t think you plowed in front of your house only so that we could park there, but the spot is now empty, and the last time we checked, individuals can’t stake claims on portions of New York City streets.)
As we write this editorial, it’s now five days after Winter Storm Jonas, and many streets in our community have yet to see a snow plow even from the distance. Fortunately, the warmer temperatures have promoted further melting of hand-shoveled areas. But the heaps of snow amassed nearby the cleared spots remain virtually unchanged, except for the dirt they’ve accumulated. Dirty piles of snow surrounded by uncollected trash and slush that deepens as more snow melts…with four out of five parking spots still buried and inability to access fire hydrants in case of emergency…seems a recipe for (further) disaster. At any other non-snowbound time of the year, we’d be quickly ticketed for parking too close for those same hydrants. Now we can’t park or walk by them, and in some cases we can’t even see them.
Kudos to our local representatives who were none too pleased, right along with us, to find that Queens had once again been placed low on the City’s plowing priority list – after Manhattan and at least certain mayoral neighborhoods of Brooklyn had been taken care of. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro ordered FDNY to plow near his home in Whitestone, so at least that part of Queens was swiftly cleared, and hopefully those firefighters braving the plow weren’t taken away from more pressing concerns. But closer to home, where the most snow had fallen (Jackson Heights was reportedly slammed with 34 inches), we were in a winter not-so-wonderland long past the weekend.
In a bizarre continuing experiment, schools remained open on Monday, though many schools reported record absences because the kids simply couldn’t get there on foot, by car, or via public transportation. Drop-offs and pick-ups, mayhem without the snow, were an absolute nightmare – and we truly hope none of our readers’ kids had any falls or other accidents. The bottom line is that when we got the phone alert telling us to stay off the roads during the blizzard, we obliged because it was the right thing to do. Similarly, the safe choice and the right thing to do would have been to close the schools. If you’re not going to send the plows, the least you could do is keep our children safely at home.