PlowNYC: City unveils online tool to help you track the nearest snowplow

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As the city prepares its resources to battle the incoming winter storm, it still has to contend with the memory of the the last major snow emergency in New York City, from which Mayor Bloomberg emerged with his reputation for sound management blemished.

The mayor went to some lengths on Thursday to not only show that the city is ready to handle whatever challenges the latest storm presents, he also introduced a new tool to help residents track snow plows.

It’s a sharp contrast to the blizzard that struck New York during the last week of 2010.  Thousands of cars got stranded, along with dozens of city buses and even some ambulances.  Residents complained of streets not being plowed for days, and of problems, such as medical conditions, which had already existed but were made worse by streets choked off by unplowed snow, preventing people from getting to hospitals or the warm homes of friends who did not lose power in the storm.

CLICK IT: ENTER YOUR ADDRESS AND TRACK THE NEAREST SNOWPLOW.

“I’m real concerned, because you can’t get around,” said a man who lives in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn.  “It makes it bad when lots of snow comes down like that.”

Plows

City snow plows are ready to roll.

He should know.  He spoke with PIX11 News from his car at the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Kings Highway.  The foot-and-a-half of snow that fell during the last week of December 2010 left that intersection, one of the busiest in the city’s most populous borough choked off, with city snow plows unable to overcome either the rapid snowfall or the obstacle course of vehicles that had piled up in the deep snow.

This time, Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday morning, the city is ready. He’s given the Sanitation Department all the tools it has requested for its 375 salt spreading snowplows to maximize their efficiency, and there is a small army of private plow operators who have been contracted to keep smaller city streets free of snow and ice.

“[Just] let them do it,” Bloomberg said at a Thursday morning news conference at the main sanitation department salt truck yard in Manhattan.  “That’s the way you run a 24-7, 280,000 person  organization.”

At the press event, he touted a new online tool that his administration has just made available to the public.  PlowNYC http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/nycsevereweather/weather_plowtracker.shtml allows a resident to enter his or her address, and then the website tells the person the last time a plow came down their street.  The information is updated every half hour.

Snow plow tracker

The city’s snow plow tracker website.

“The public says, ‘My street was never plowed.'”, said Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty to PIX11 News.  “They can look at it and see my street was plowed.”

Also, the MTA alerted its bus and train operators to prepare to implement its cold weather plan, which puts the agency’s resources on alert to be ready to clear tracks of snow and to be prepared to move trains that are typically kept in outdoor rail yards underground if necessary.

The transportation authority posted a video on its YouTube page showing its snow blowing an snow clearing equipment in ready mode .   Its intention is to prevent situations like one during the 2010 blizzard in which an elevated A train in the Rockaways got stuck in the blizzard, and its hundreds of passengers were trapped for seven hours.

The MTA’s efforts, combined with the city’s plans and resources are meant to keep the city running much more smoothly than it did during its last major snow emergency.

People who had been snowed in during the late 2010 blizzard told PIX11 News that they had confidence in the authorities, if only because the city and transportation authority could do no worse.

“I don’t think they can be as ignorant to do the same things again and make the same mistakes again,” said Queens resident Adrienne Johnson.  “I think they’re going to step up their game a little bit.”

Another woman, who was driving down Kings Highway in Brooklyn, echoed that sentiment.  “I think now they’re on the ball.  They don’t want to have the repurcussions they had the last time.”