Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cities Are Frozen, But Frustrated People Get Hot

Cities are frozen, but frustrated people get hot

By Martha T. Moore, Charisse Jones and Jessica Rinaldi,

NEW YORK — The second day after a major snowstorm covered the New York region with up to 2½ feet of snow, frustration reigned because of still-snowed-in streets and slowly clearing skies.
Airlines struggled to catch up from canceled flights that stranded thousands of travelers, and international passengers sat on chilly planes for hours, waiting for an open gate so they could disembark. Thousands of suitcases remained separated from their owners because airport employees could not get to work to sort them.

Several planes sat for hours on New York airport tarmacs because no gates were available. A Cathay Pacific flight was stuck for more than 11 hours Tuesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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Passengers on three American Eagle flights that landed Tuesday morning at LaGuardia Airport also languished, but officials found gates for them in less than three hours, said Steve Coleman, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports.

Under rules imposed after previous weather delays trapped passengers on planes, U.S. airlines are not allowed to keep passengers waiting on the tarmac for more than three hours. The rule does not apply to international flights or foreign airlines.

On the ground, city crews towed hundreds of stranded buses, ambulances and cars while Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, defended the snow cleanup from criticism that neighborhoods outside Manhattan hadn't seen snowplows.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, drew criticism from state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat, for being on vacation at Florida's Walt Disney World— leaving the state Senate president in charge of a state buried under 30 inches of snow.

In New York, the cleanup — or lack of it — reignited long-standing tensions between Manhattan, where the city's wealthy are concentrated, and the city's four other boroughs. While Manhattan streets seemed sloppy but passable, Brooklyn and Queens officials said many of their secondary roads were untouched 36 hours after the storm.

"There was a royal screw-up in terms of the (snowplow) response to this large snowfall. ... Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island and, to some degree, the Bronx bore the brunt of it," said Brooklyn borough President Marty Markowitz. "The residents are angry, and they have a right to be angry."

The Brooklyn parking lot where cabbie Juan Maldonado parks his yellow taxi is dug out, but his street in Bushwick remained buried in 2-foot drifts. "I can't get out," he says. If he can't get his cab out, he can't make money. "I'm losing $200 a day," he said. "They abandoned us. It's like we don't exist."

Bloomberg said plows wouldn't get to all streets before midday today, and the wait could be longer. The number of stranded cars and poor response from private tow operators asked to help move them led to the slow plowing, he said.

"Yelling about it and complaining doesn't help," he said.

With this kind of Christmas present, a new year can't come soon enough — and in Times Square, preparations for the New Year's Eve crowdfest are underway. "It's still a little bit of a winter wonderland here," said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, which manages the celebration.

Construction of the stage for the midnight ball drop was delayed by the snow but has been completed. "We have a saying in this neighborhood: The show must go on," Tompkins said. This year, he's adding a second motto: "The snow must go away."

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