Sanitation Department Doesn’t Even Know If Your Street Is Clear


​Has your street been cleared yet? Turns out the city’s cleanup workers aren’t really sure. The New York Times talked to the city’s Department of Sanitation today and found that the city’s method of tracking street maintenance during snowstorms is (surprise!) “notably incomplete and potentially misleading,” and makes it almost impossible to compare the city’s clean-up efforts with previous storms.

In fact, according to the Times, the city’s doing a pretty piss-poor job of tracking its own performance during snowstorms. The paper says the city only catalogs streets as “plowed” or “salted,” but neither term necessarily means the road is actually, you know, clear.

Via the NYT:

“It is possible, then, that the block one lives on may have been plowed or salted by a sanitation truck, and been recorded as such by the department, but it could still be challenging to navigate. The inability to offer any clear claims of success, then, left a vacuum that was filled with residents’ angry anecdotes Tuesday.

The murkiness — city officials can make claims that do not seem to match reality on the streets — partly results from the fact that the Sanitation Department starts counting the sterets it has plowed from the start of a storm, meaning a street could be freed of some or most of its snow only to be covered again later.

Indeed, a sanitation spokesman told the Times that by yesterday evening, “99 percent of the city’s primary streets, 76 percent of its secondary streets and 52 percent of its tertiary roads” had been plowed. (A claim the Times itself seems slightly skeptical of, considering its City Room blog keeps asking readers if they have their street has been plowed.)
Meanwhile, the city’s been taking a lot of heat for its slow response to the weekend blizzard. Lucky for Mayor Bloomberg, the Sanitation Department keeps crappy track of its historical performance, too, making it difficult (if not impossible) to objectively compare the handling of this storm with past ones:

“But [Sanitation Department spokesman Vito] Turso acknowledged that those numbers could not be judged in comparative context. He said he was not aware of any reports or studies from prior snowstorms kept by the Sanitation Department that document the rate at which streets were plowed by the agency as a means for evaluating its response to this blizzard.

Asked why no such historical performance reports were kept, Mr. Turso said: “If we went back to the archives, we could pull out data for our plowing efforts in past storms. But we don’t have that material in report or study form.”