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Queens Residents Still Frustrated As City Deploys Equipment To Clear Side Streets

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Sanitation crews have been busy clearing snow from some neighborhoods in Queens that residents and local lawmakers said were left unplowed for days following the weekend's blizzard.

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reported, some neighborhoods were still struggling with snow and slush even though plows have been out in force. Over 900 pieces of equipment canvassed Queens on Tuesday.

"As you look down the block you can see the pile of snow, that block was never plowed since this morning," Baldur Grigremmel said.

Grigremmel and other Middle Village residents said they have had it.

"They should have done it quicker. For three days they kept us prisoner in our house," he said.

Tuesday morning, crews plowed down a number of side streets off 96th Street near Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven while front-end loaders cleared out clogged intersections.

Still some have called Queens the forgotten borough. Something Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia refuted.

"That has not been my experience. To be quite honest with you all the storms I did last year, some of Queens got hit very hard, 12 inches of snow, I never heard people say they've been forgotten because we never forget anybody," Garcia said.

Garcia said this time Queens got really clobbered and its small streets present unique challenges.

"It's going to take us some time, but we're making progress," Garcia said.

Some of the snow is being transported to Forrest Park, where it's being piled up near the bandshell.

In other spots, Garcia said snow melters are being used. She said the equipment acts like a giant hot tub and can melt up to 60 tons in an hour, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.

"There's water from a hydrant, because you need water to start the process, and you heat up that water like you would in a hot water heater to about 40 or 50 degrees and when you add the snow, that's enough to melt it," she said. "It's like a big hot tub."

The Sanitation Department said it has already plowed 99 percent of city streets and nearly 100 percent of Queens streets since the storm ended.

Garcia said the city has plowed 7.25 million tons of snow from the streets, enough to fill Yankee Stadium 66 times or the Empire State Building 24 times.

"I believe that as of this hour we have been in every street, that is what has been reported up to me, but I would like to just stay with 99 percent because I'm sure you will all go find the one street that I have missed," Garcia told WCBS 880's Rich Lamb.

Finally freed from snow-covered streets, many residents were up and out to school and work.

"It's about time, about time because it was really bad," resident Ormenia Duran told CBS2's Elise Finch. "This morning, it took me 45 minutes to go down the block, there was no place to walk."

EXTRA: Check Plow Progress

"It was really treacherous," said bus driver Amanda Hardyal. "I got stuck many times."

"It's a very tight block," said resident Jerry Saravia. "They did try to do it on Saturday, but a truck got stuck in here. I understand. Sanitation workers are trying to do their best."

"It's good now, but it was impossible before," another woman said. "It brought the community together."

"I heard some plowing last night -- finally," one woman told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond.

Dottie Dolche told CBS2's Brennan that she has been around the block a few times, but she's not happy about what she sees.

"I'm gonna be 80 years next year, and I shoveled mine. I shoveled my porch, and I shoveled my street," she said.

Maria Ponce said being snowed in for two full days after the storm made her feel like the city doesn't value her neighborhood.

"We don't matter, it's not fair," she said. "Look at us, we been stuck in here for quite a while."

"They completely forgot about Queens and that's horrible," said another man as he cleaned off his car.

In Bayside, the snow was still stacked up on 201st Street and 15th Drive, 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reported. A plow did try to come down the narrow block, but didn't make it down the street.

"He got stuck, couldn't make the turn. It's just too narrow over here and that 30,000-pound truck got stuck here for about 10 hours," said a man named Dino, who added that he spent about 12 hours outside shoveling the snow himself.

Residents across Queens have been very vocal about their frustrations, with many saying they hadn't seen a plow for days.

"Horrendous," said Ozone Park resident Omar de la Cruz. "I mean they haven't passed by to plow the streets -- been two days. Horrible."

"This is a disgrace. Our mayor, what is he being paid for? To do what? To do this?" Middle Village resident Bill Albergo said.

"We thought we had it bad with Bloomberg, de Blasio is even worse," another resident in Glendale said. "He just thought about Brooklyn, his borough. Totally neglected Queens."

"The commissioner says all the main roads are OK, and that's true, but about over here? I bet Park Slope is nice and clean over there, where the mayor used to live," another man told 1010 WINS' John Montone.

People in Middle Village said plows come by and do blocks that are already done and never get around to the side streets.

"A lot of times you see the plows going around in circles on the mains streets and totally ignoring the side streets. I don't see the sense cause there's nothing on the main streets anymore," Eddie Schaefer said.

However, at least one resident was willing to give the plow guys a break.

"Yes, there are blocks that are not done, and I'm sorry it's not done, but you have to give them a couple of days," Debbie Jacobson said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Queens and heard first hand from residents who feel the city has left them out in the cold. The mayor said Monday that most primary and secondary roads were cleared, but admitted that smaller streets were "a mixed bag."

"Life is not back to normal here in Woodhaven or Ozone Park or Richmond Hill or so many neighborhoods in Queens where people are literally buried under two-and-a-half feet of snow," said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens). "The mayor says help is on the way, but we haven't seen any help."

Councilman Rory Lancman represents Eastern Queens. He too said the city's response was simply unacceptable.

"My constituents are upset. They're angry. They pay taxes, they expect services and again it's not like this was the first snow storm in the city's history. It's not the first snow storm where Queens was forgotten," Lancman said.

Lancman was so upset that he tweeted numerous pictures of streets that had not been plowed, and one that Photoshopped de Blasio onto that iconic picture of former President George Bush declaring "Mission Accomplished."

When asked how long she thinks the cleanup will take, Garcia said, "We're going to keep doing this until we feel people can move around freely."

De Blasio called Saturday's snow "not your average storm" and said Monday that additional resources were being sent into Queens.

He also said too many people were putting snow they removed from their cars back onto the street.

"You take 27 inches of snow off a bunch of cars, you will literally block a street," he said.

Even as snow gets hauled away, there are still little infuriating things.

"The worst part is that you shovel out the spot and somebody takes it," Anthony Torres said.

He plans to get even.

"Every man for himself. You shovel it, you leave it, I'm taking it," he said.

The city said alternate side parking rules are suspended through Monday, Feb. 1.

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