Private Plows Save Winter-Weary Wooster Square

Peter Webster Photo

After days of parking-ban confusion and no sign of city plow trucks in Wooster Square, Bill Iovanne decided to take matters into his own hands—by hiring a private crew to work through the night to dig out the neighborhood.

From 6 p.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. Thursday, drivers of four payloaders, two bucket-loaders, a Bobcat tractor, and several dump trucks worked to clear streets around Wooster Square.

That wasn’t city equipment, and it wasn’t public works staff manning it. The city streets were cleared by employees of a North Haven landscaping company, hired by Iovanne, who runs his family’s funeral home in Wooster Square.

Thomas MacMillan PhotoIovanne (pictured on a newly cleared Wooster Place) said that the city has done a good job with snow-clearing, but that he could see that Wooster Square needed more help.

“It’s about being a good neighbor,” he said. He said he has “no idea” how much the late-night snow-clearing will cost him.

Peter Webster Photo“How can we thank them?” said Peter Webster, head of the Wooster Square block watch. “It’s impossible.” He said he was amazed by the Iovanne family’s generosity.

Neighbors have been confused and annoyed by the city’s arcane, shifting towing and plowing plans over the past week, Webster said. He argued that if the city hadn’t been so inept, Iovanne wouldn’t have had to clear the streets out of his own pocket.

Doug Arndt, the public works director, said the city has been working as hard as it can to clear city streets.

The city is in the midst of a week-long snow removal operation, part of an effort to dig out after a number of storms that hit town in rapid succession in the last couple of weeks. The city neglected to enforce residential parking bans during the storms, leading to narrow, snow-clogged streets that the city is now trying to make passable.

The city targeted some 39 narrow streets citywide for snow removal this week, many of which are in Wooster Square. Webster (pictured) said neighbors had been eagerly waiting for the plows to arrive this week in Wooster Square, without being sure when it would happen.

“The problem was a lot of the information they sent out was contradictory,” he said.

Webster said he had been calling the city trying to figure out when plows would come, without success. Finally on Tuesday evening, city cars arrived in Wooster Square to broadcast a garbled message by loudspeaker: Plowing tomorrow; move your cars.

But on Wednesday morning, no plows arrived. “People were standing in the street asking where the plows are,” Webster said.

As the day wore on, with no sign of plows, Iovanne finally decided to take action. He said he called the mayor’s office at about 3 or 4 p.m. to let the city know he was hiring private contractors to clear the streets. A couple hours later, equipment and workers from Mineri Landscaping began work on Wooster Place.

In addition to Wooster Place, Mineri cleared snow from Wooster, Chapel, Greene and Academy streets. Mineri also cleared sidewalks. Iovanne said workers would return Thursday to clear more of Wooster and Chapel streets.

The city allowed Mineri to dump snow on Marginal Drive. Traffic enforcement had some cars ticketed and towed to make way for the work; Iovanne said he’d been tried to avoid that.

Iovanne said he had been thinking for a couple of days about hiring the company, which clears the funeral home’s parking lot, to clear the streets. He watched people to struggle to maneuver through the streets; a fire truck hadn’t been able to get down Wooster Street.

“It’s just that this is bigger than anybody could have imagined,” Iovanne said. The city has done a good job, he said. “At some point, you’ve got to pitch in.”

Peter Webster Photo“If you see your neighbor shoveling, you go help out,” he said. “This is more than I could handle with a shovel.”

“It’s pretty generous,” said Adam Brouillard, walking his dog in Wooster Square Thursday. The city is just “overwhelmed” by the snow, he said.

“That’s awesome of him,” neighbor Claire Kelly (pictured) said of Iovanne’s plow-hire. “I’m glad someone’s taking responsibility.”

“He shouldn’t have had to do that. We pay high taxes,” said a woman walking a dog that was wearing an insulated coat.

“I noticed I could park today. I was amazed,” said Pam Ellman, visiting the neighborhood from Guilford. “It’s great for everybody. I appreciate it.”

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posted by: Shaggybob on February 20, 2014  4:25pm

He should send a bill to Mayor Harp so when the feds reimburse us he should get a portion.

Its a sad day when we as the taxpayers have to provide our own public services for lack of organization and response from those in charge- Yes Ms. Harp that’s you. Take note that every other town in CT was able to clear their streets -EVEN HARTFORD. why because they enforce parking bans!

Thank you Mr. Iovanne- I hope they don’t try to hit you up for a trespassing fine or some stupid ordinance that prohibits citizens from performing services on a public street without a permit for the purpose of keeping citizens safe because the City couldn’t do something simple like enforce a parking ban.

posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on February 20, 2014  5:09pm

It is nice to read stories like this.

Similar good deeds have happened all over the city with homeowners who own plows, digging out streets, their neighbors, etc….

This is certainly the extreme and I agree with Shaggybob.  If anything, and to make a point, I would certainly send a bill to the mayor, and copy public works and the tax collector and, at the same time, copy the New Haven Independent and the New Haven Register.  More people need to know.

All this said, I am confused by the outpouring of anger over the snow removal in New Haven.  We’ve had unprecedented snow with no where to put it.  Drive around Bridgeport and you will think we live in Shangri-La.  I, honestly, think the majority of hiccups have come from a mayoral transition in the middle of one of the worst winters in recent history.

It could be worse, it could certainly be better, but at least spring is around the corner!

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 20, 2014  6:14pm

I think I have a personal parking ban in force in front of my even- numbered house, through March.

The former, available parking spots are where the plows pushed all of the snow.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on February 20, 2014  6:15pm

Just another day for the Iovannes. They have been doing good work for the Wooster Square neighborhood, the city, and a whole variety of other organizations, and charities, quietly and modestly for years. They just got caught in the act. Thank You Billy, and I know your Dad is hiding from the cameras in the background, but he better watch out the public doesn’t catch on to how good both of you are. They might try to run you for public office.

posted by: Wooster Squared on February 20, 2014  6:28pm

I find it ironic that Peter Webster, the man who lost the aldermanic primary, has been on the ball throughout this entire storm and cleanup effort.

Our actual alderman, Yale student Aaron Greenberg, has been, in my opinion, unresponsive and ineffective. I received zero updates from him during the last two weeks, while receiving frequent detailed updates from Mr. Webster on parking plowing and other neighborhood issues.

Peter - you’ve done an amazing job, I’m very glad to have you in the neighborhood.

A big thanks to Bill Iovanne and Peter Webster.

posted by: writewrong on February 20, 2014  8:28pm

Bill for Mayor 2015

posted by: just my view on February 20, 2014  9:02pm

Send the City a bill? That’s not how the Iovanne’s roll, but I’ll be darn surprised if Local 68 doesn’t file a grievance against the City for allowing it to happen. ;)

The Iovanne’s are a classic New Haven institution (few and far between)!

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on February 21, 2014  11:57am

Nice move and a wonderful gesture of support for the community. Well done. Certainly hope the Iovanne’s can write this off as a business expense.  Great publicity for both companies.

posted by: Hill Resident on February 23, 2014  11:04pm

Thank you Mr. Iovanne for being a good citizen and a great neighbor in Wooster Square. It is wonderful to read about his initiative to ‘get it done’. So again, kudos to you Mr. Iovanne for your proactiveness and care for your community!!!