The Ice-Breaker Cometh

Thomas MacMillan PhotoPayloaders and dump trucks finally descended on the Hill’s Wilson Street Wednesday, bringing relief from snow-clogged streets— and a $100 ticket for Erivaldo Souza.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in other neighborhoods offered a report card for the city’s street-clearing effort, with grades ranging from Bs to Fs.

It was the third day of a special citywide snow removal operation. Department of Public Works vehicles mustered on some of the most neglected narrow streets in the Hill and set about not just plowing, but removing mountains of snow and ice.

The city is digging out from a series of snowstorms that have pounded New Haven in the last couple of weeks. Workers are also dealing with the consequences of unenforced parking bans. Unplowed ice and snow has piled up and narrowed the streets, making it still harder to clear.

The city is addressing that problem on some 39 or so especially narrow streets this week. Those streets are targeted for not just snow plowing, but snow removal. Payloaders are scooping the snow into dump trucks to haul it away. The city’s towing cars parked on the odd side of the street in defiance of a week-long ban.

Amid that operation, the Independent asked a sampling of alders Tuesday night to grade the quality of the street-clearing in their wards. The results: five Cs, two Bs, and an F. Two other alders declined to offer a letter grade but said there’s room for improvement.

“We are working as hard as we possibly can to improve the conditions in each ward,” said Doug Arndt, head of public works. He said rising temperatures will help the snow-battling operation. “We’re hoping the warm weather will help improve all those grades.”

Arndt said public works staff are working around the clock. “We’re really trying to do our best.”

The constant effort is tiring out his staff and also taking a toll on equipment, Arndt said. The department is contending with broken plows and other truck components he said. “Problems that maybe come up every two years, we’re seeing come up in one season.”

“We run straight through,” he said. “It’s difficult to come up for air.”

Operation Free Wilson

Public works staff got going at 6 a.m. Wednesday after working until 10 p.m. the night before. Rich Christensen headed up a crew that cleared Button Street without needing to tow any cars.

Wilson Street, which the crew started in on at just before 11 a.m., was a different story. Two cars ended up being towed there, and six were ticketed.

Erivaldo Souza (pictured in top photo) was reeling from a $100 ticket he’d received at 7:58 a.m.. He admitted he’d been parked on the prohibited odd-numbered side of the street. He said he hadn’t seen the emergency “No Parking” signs posted on telephone poles. He moved his car to the other side of the street after he got the ticket, before public works hit the street.

“I don’t know what time you did these posters,” he said. “If they came in the dark, nobody sees that.”

Souza, a painter, said he can’t afford a $100 ticket. “That’s a lot of money. It’s impossible to pay.”

“I would suggest that you appeal,” a parking enforcement officer, who declined to give his name, advised Souza.

“I’ll try,” Souza said later. He said he wasn’t hopeful he’d succeed.

Other neighbors welcomed the snow removal operation. “They’re doing a good job,” said a man who was taking pictures of the snow to send to his kids in Jamaica.

Bill, another neighbor, said the city should have done more, sooner. “They haven’t been enforcing [the parking bans] all winter. They should be.”

Domingo Rogers steered his John Deere payloader down Wilson Street, making piles of damp snow and then scooping them into waiting trucks. Each bucketful gathered about four cubic yards of snow, weighing about one ton.

It took between 12 and 15 buckets to fill the back of the public works tractor-trailer. Once it was full, Bill Abiles took the wheel of the Mack CH600 tractor and guided the load to the dumping ground near the corner of Yale and Derby avenues.

There, he opened the trailer’s rear gate ...

... and dumped the load onto a growing pile.

Returning to Wilson Street, Abiles found a woman standing on a front porch in her pajamas, coming to terms with the fact that her rental car had been towed.

“Bullshit. I didn’t even see that sign last night,” the woman said, retreating back inside.

Meanwhile, Rogers had cleared more of the street, leaving a trail of scraped-clean blacktop behind him.

Neighbor Felix Galarza looked on approvingly. It’s been hard to find a spot to park on the street, he said. “You clean the spot, then somebody comes in and takes it.”

Galarza (pictured) said the newly cleared street should solve that problem. “They way they’re going, they’re going to make it easier for everybody.”

Middling Marks

Meanwhile, people in other parts of town are still dealing with snowy streets. Here’s a sample of perspectives from around town, from 10 members of the Board of Alders:

Dwight: C
Alder Frank Douglass said the streets in his Dwight ward have been “pretty good.” They’d be better if neighbors would cooperate with the parking bans, he said. “People—they don’t get it. I’m telling them, move your cars.” Douglass gave his ward’s streets a C. He said his worst street is University Place.

Newhallvile: C+
“It’s not good. It’s a struggling situation,” said Alder Delphine Clyburn. She said she has informed public works where all her elderly constituents live, as well as people on dialysis.

“It’s a slow process to get where we want to be. I’m thanking them for every little thing they do,” she said. She singled out public works supervisor Lynwood Dorsey for high praise. “Mr. Lynwood is off the chain. That means he’s good.”

Clyburn nevertheless gave the city a C+ for street clearing in her ward.

Upper Westville: No Grade
“it’s not horrible, but they definitely need to be better,” said Alder Darryl Brackeen. He said his streets suffer from “just all-around sloshiness.” Public works needs new trucks, he said.

Moriss Cove: B+
Alder Sal DeCola said streets in his ward are “fine.” He gave the plow-drivers a B+. “They did a good job.”

DeCola said his ward is 5 degrees warmer than the rest of the city, which “helps the melting.”

West Rock: B
“My streets are good,” said Alder Carlton Staggers. He said he’s had almost no complaints from neighbors. He graded the streets at “about a B.”

Beaver Hills: C+
Alder Brian Wingate said some streets in his ward were good and “some not so great.” He said that as of Tuesday afternoon, the plows hadn’t fully cleared the Boulevard north of Whalley. “I give it a C+.”

Wooster Square: C-
Alder Aaron Greenberg said his neighbors are “confused about when things are going to happen.” Wooster Square contains a lot of the 39-ish streets the city has targeted for snow removal, but people aren’t sure when they’ll be cleared. He graded the streets at C-.

The Hill: F
Alder JeQueena Foreman, the board’s newest member, said her ward’s streets are in terrible shape. “They haven’t plowed. They just haven’t plowed.”

She said she organized her neighbors to move their cars to make way for plows, and the plows never came. The streets are so narrow that the MyRide shuttle sideswiped two cars on Vernon Street, she said.

“I’d say F,” she said. “They didn’t plow. That’s the thing.”

Beaver Hills-Westville-Amity-Beverly Hills: C-
Alder Angela Russel said that her worst street was Pardee Place, which the city hit with payloaders on Monday morning. Other than that, she he not received many complaints, she said. Nevertheless, the streets are still in “C-” condition, she said.

The Hill: No Grade
“There’s room for improvement,” Alder Jorge Perez said of plowing in his ward. He declined to name a letter grade.

He said he’s fielded lots of calls and complaints about plowing. People are “totally” confused about the parking bans, he said.

Perez said he appreciated the long hours public works staff has been putting in, and the difficulty of cleaning up three storms in five days. But, “there’s still room for improvement in that effort.”

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posted by: Long Time NH Resident on February 19, 2014  5:59pm

Not for nothing, but if Carlton Staggers was reachable I’m sure he would have gotten a few complaints. He should have contacted residents on Valley Street with driveways that throw all the snow back into the street when digging out their parked cars and don’t obey parking bans. I’ve been hearing my neighbors complain for weeks.

It’s not a coincidence his street was the only one in the neighborhood cleared during the blizzard.

Great Job Public Works- maybe if the City enforces parking bans before it comes to this you may have a fighting chance- not to mention staying within budget !

posted by: Joe City on February 19, 2014  6:23pm

Without a doubt, the worst snow removal effort EVER. And not by the plow operators, but by the management, who obviously have absolutely no idea of what they are doing, nor of what chaos they have created with their never ending bad dream of public announcements. In particular, Doug Hausladen was probably the best of the misinformationalists (to coin a new word), but it was obvious, there was no one in charge, no one knew what to do, and pretty much, no one did anything except talk. If there was a grade less than F, that’s what they deserve. The Alders are just afraid to criticize Toni Harp so early in her administration after so strongly supporting her.

posted by: state st on February 19, 2014  7:46pm


posted by: SamuelRoberts on February 19, 2014  9:07pm

Joe City et al

Anyone saying they’re confused about the parking ban is not doing their job as a citizen. It’s actually dead-simple: DON’T PARK ON THE ODDSIDE OF THE STREET.
If you’ve got a second grade education and cannot abide by that, don’t blame the Alders, Doug, or the Mayor for it.
And do yourself a favor and sign up for the emergency call #. I did it months ago and received a prompt, timely message from City Hall with detailed messaging EVERY SINGLE TIME it snowed, if not multiple times.
Here’s the site to do so:

posted by: Joe City on February 20, 2014  12:34am

SR I have parked on the even side for every snowfall. I’m not confused. They are.

posted by: fk on February 20, 2014  10:02am

Unfortunately, our city was sold to the highest bidder in the last election.  Is anybody ready and willing to do what it takes to get it back?  The first step is to admit that this was a mistake!

posted by: Shaggybob on February 20, 2014  11:50am

I am so appalled that the parking ban is RANDOMLY ENFORCED. I see cars still parked on the odd side of the street still covered in snow and the plows just went around them. I understand they can’t spend hours digging out every car BUT a ticket at minimum would have at least been some sort of punishment, but nothing?? Then why did I waste my time helping my neighbors get their cars off the odd side to avoid ticket/towing when it didn’t happen? I’ll never do that again.

Shame on the Mayor and the administration for not even doing what they said they would do.

Traffic and Parking and the NHPD (the only ones with authority to issue tickets) obviously are playing favorites and looking the other way for people they know and should be ashamed. I can site at least 20 examples of non-enforcement if not more if I drove around. Picking and choosing who to ticket and who not to ticket is completely unacceptable.
They are just making it impossible for Public Works to clear the streets properly if they WON’T REMOVE THE CARS.

BTW AWESOME JOB BY PW WHERE THERE WERE NO CARS. !!  THANKS FOR ALL YOUR HARD WORK- too bad the other departments are only randomly doing their part.

Please call your Alders and the Mayor and call her out on this debacle.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on February 21, 2014  9:18am

Strongly disagree with people blaming the City, especially the new administration. I’m sorry, but I don’t remember the DeStefano administration ever really enforcing the even-side parking ban, and certainly not with towing. If they did, it was sporadically and not in my neighborhood.

The truth is, we’ve gotten a ton of snow, and people leave their cars for days or even weeks at a time because they work for Yale and don’t care. So the plows can’t do their jobs. And you end up with these huge mounds and the problem keeps getting worse the more it snows—and it just keeps snowing.

I’m not sure what sort of magical solution people expect. If the city actually DID enforce the even side parking ban, people would bitch about their cars being towed, or not being warned properly, or that there’s not enough parking available, etc.

The truth is it’s just very difficult to manage the very high levels of consistent snow we’ve gotten this year in a city with so many vehicles.

posted by: Lisa on February 21, 2014  1:21pm

I have been saying this all along:  If the city enforces the parking ban with EVERY storm, then people would learn that a parking ban is exactly what it means.  DON’T PARK HERE WHEN IT SNOWS.

We have to change the mindset of residents who have become complacent with the “unenforcement” of the parking bans.  Once the city starts handing out tickets people will learn real quick.