“They’re Done?”

Melissa Bailey PhotoThomas MacMillan PhotoIn order to carry passengers down Goffe Terrace Monday, the Z3 bus had to swerve around a bank of unplowed snow, crossing the yellow lines into oncoming traffic.

The tight spot was one of dozens neighbors flagged as they called in complaints about narrow streets and high snow piles—questioning the city’s assertion that the post-blizzard cleanup is largely done.

The city laid most of its plows and pay loaders to rest on Saturday after seven days of round-the-clock work cleaning up from historic Winter Storm Nemo, city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts said. At the peak of cleanup, the city reported having nearly 100 pieces of equipment on the roads, including 32 heavy plows, 26 pay loaders and 40 dump trucks.

By Monday, that operation had been scaled down to just a few pieces of equipment, Smuts said. A small crew from the city Department of Public Works was responding to snow that posed a threat to public safety or would impede kids’ safe return to school Tuesday, he said.

Smuts said the fire department had deemed 60 percent of roads “passable,” 40 percent “open,” and none “impassable” as of the latest count.

“The major snow removal effort is now completed,” the city announced in a press release Monday morning.

What “completed” means was a topic of much debate Monday. Neighbors’ complaints continued to pour in, particularly from the Beaver Hills neighborhood.

“It’s unacceptable,” steamed Beaver Hills Alderwoman Claudette Robinson-Thorpe.

“I know it’s a lot of snow. But we’re going on the second week now,” she said. “I’ve gotten over 25 calls” about how people were told to move their cars for an odd-side parking ban Wednesday to Friday nights. “The cops came out here” to tell people to move. Then “They [the plows] never showed up!”

“People are upset about this,” Robinson-Thorpe said. “I told constituents they need to call City Hall.”

On Bellevue Road and Dyer Street, she noted, the city plowed only one lane. The crews that spent three days removing snow with pay loaders and dump trucks never hit those streets, she said. Cars moving in opposite directions Monday had to pull over to let each other pass by.

Complaints also came in from neighborhoods like East Rock and Wooster Square and Newhallville and the Hill, through calls to aldermen and messages on SeeClickFix.

Beaver Hills was a particular focus of concern.

Smuts said the city will be able to address some of the problems aldermen raised. If the weather warms the snow enough, “we hope that we may be able to plow back and widen” the lanes on some streets, Smuts said. He said Dyer is one street on the city’s list for future widening.

“It’s not an immediate public safety issue, but it is one issue that rises to the level that we’d like to get to,” he said.

Overall, Smuts said, the city won’t be able to get to all the complaints. “It’s just not feasible to clear the streets to the level of convenience that ideally we’d like to provide,” he said.

Smuts said the city has been spending a quarter-million dollars per day on snow removal. Because there was so much snow, the plows couldn’t handle it alone; the city had to hire contractors to dig up the snow and remove it with pay loaders and tri-axle trucks. That’s a slow, expensive process, he said.

Because the federal government declared a state of emergency, the city is eligible for reimbursement for up to 75 percent of costs, but so far the reimbursements only pertain to a 48-hour period after the storm hit.

Besides all the money it costs, snow removal “takes a toll on manpower,” Smuts said. “We had 7 days of 12-hour shifts. There’s a limit to how much you can get your personnel to do.”

“Our standard for removal is safety issues, not convenience issues,” he said. Streets will be cleared to the extent that there is a public safety risk, as determined by the fire department and Board of Education, Smuts said.

Reports from aldermen varied.

“The situation being what it is, the city did a good job,” said Dixwell Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison. “They did the best with what they have.”

Aldermanic President Jorge Perez said “the major roads are done,” but “some of the side streets leave a lot to be desired.”

“Some people are grateful. Some people say, ‘Delphine, I’m glad I can go to work!’” reported Newhallville Alderwoman Delphine Clyburn.

Clyburn said the city did a good job on some side streets, while it has more work to do on others.

“They should still be clearing,” Clyburn said. “There are still problems. At corners, if you’re driving, you cannot see if you’re at a stoplight. You’re safe at a light—if they’re obeying the light. At a stop sign, you can’t see around the snow bank. How can children go back to school? They have to wait for their buses.”


News that the city had stopped its snow removal operation came as a surprise to some pedestrians trudging through Newhallville.

“They’re done?” responded a man named Andre walking through Lilac Street Monday afternoon. “That sucks. There’s still a lot of snow out there.”

Further up Lilac Street, a certified nursing assistant named Carmen Spears drove up to pay a visit to a patient. She had to park way up the block because there was little parking: Though the city had ordered cars off the odd side of the street for three nights in a row, the snow removal crews never made it to the street. The odd side of the street remained piled up with snow, with many parking spots unavailable.

“It’s not right they didn’t finish plowing,” Spears said. She added that the mountains of snow made it hard to see around some turns.

“It was requested that we park on the even side several nights last week so that our street could be plowed. This was never done. When can we expect this to be done?” wrote a Lilac Street neighbor on SeeClickFix, the Google-Maps-based problem-solving website.

Smuts acknowledged neighbors’ frustration.

“That’s understandable,” he said. But he said the city didn’t know in advance exactly which streets it would be able to get to. Because it was an overnight operation, police had to announce the ban in the evening—not at 4 a.m., when a crew turned onto a specific street—to give people time to move their cars. The crews reached as many streets as they could, he said. But with such a long, laborious job, “we’re not going to get to every street.”

SeeClickFix buzzed Monday with comments from neighbors ticked off that the city didn’t remove snow from their streets.

“While I understand the awesome force of nature that this storm was, I do not understand why all major arteries into town are cleared so that individuals who live in suburbs can now easily commute into New Haven and Yale, but those who live in New Haven are still struggling to find parking and have safe streets to navigate between these major arteries,” wrote a neighbor in SoHu, the pocket of East Rock South of Humphrey.

Carmen Spears, the nursing assistant making her rounds through Newhallville, tried to look on the bright side.

“Maybe the sun will melt it,” she said.

Paul Bass contributed reporting.

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posted by: Curious on February 18, 2013  5:45pm

I would LOVE to see how many cars were towed or ticketed on streets that ended up not being plowed.

posted by: CreatingUrgency on February 18, 2013  6:13pm

It boggles the mind that many of these neighborhoods have long driveways and/or neighbors with large lots (Small businesses with large lots), yet there were cars still on the street Friday night. Get your cars off the street during snow storms. My neighbors put their cars on their lawns. There were NO cars on the street in my neighborhood Friday night. No one needed get off the street.

And if you HAD to park on the street, get off your butt and go help shovel. This is New England. We get snow. Even if you can’t lift a shovel, get tea and coffee and warm food ready for those who DO go out and shovel.

Why are there cars still snowed in on the street? WHY?? Go out and shovel like the rest of us had to. Or hire a kid to do it. Or do it, even if it isn’t your car but it is impeding snow plows from doing YOUR street correctly.

Stop acting like your life is the only life on this planet.  Don’t wait for the government to come shovel you out.

posted by: Yaakov on February 18, 2013  6:36pm

Early last week I was defending New Haven’s efforts to all those who were complaining. I was rolling my eyes at the folks on seeclickfix who were saying on Monday that their streets still hadn’t been plowed.

But now we’re a week and a half out, the streets in the neighborhoods are still horrible, and the city just calls it quits?

All you have to do is go to ~any~ other town around us to compare and get an idea of how horrible of a job New Haven did at dealing with the snow. I’m not just talking about suburbs like Woodbridge, but other towns and cities with significant urban centers and high density housing.

There is no excuse for this.

I’m sure it will make for interesting debate among mayoral candidates.

posted by: NHFan on February 18, 2013  6:38pm

Thank goodness for this article - I’ve been wondering if I’m just crazy. My street did not see a plow or payloader after the weekend of the storm. We have a lane and a half, and there’s nowhere to park.

I understand that this storm was a huge event, but streets in Hamden are gorgeous by comparison, as are those in Wallingford, Cheshire, Middletown… What’s up, New Haven?? Why couldn’t you have extended the efforts for Downtown into the neighborhoods?

posted by: Nathan on February 18, 2013  6:41pm

“Our standard for removal is safety issues, not convenience issues,”

Forced sudden lane changes and single lane entry onto side streets is very much a safety issue, not merely a matter of “convenience”.

posted by: Yaakov on February 18, 2013  6:43pm

NewHavenIndependent, I’d love to see a comparison of how the streets look in neighborhoods like Wooster Square, Downtown, and East Rock, compared to Newhallville, Dwight, and the Hill.

posted by: Greg-Morehead on February 18, 2013  6:51pm

@Jeannette Morrison..
For Real?  The city did the best that they could with what they had???
Are you kidding me?  I agree with Claudette, this is UNACCEPTABLE! But I forgot Jeannette, you also said on WTNH that it wasn’t that bad out here on the Sun after the storm.  There are still big mounds of snow out here, on MANY streets, they are ONLY 1 lane. 

What happened to the Aldermen being vocal right after the storm? 
Myself and Darnel Goldson were the ONLY two Aldermen to go to the city right after the storm and get a briefing on the cleanup/what streets were left to be done etc.
Read about that here..

Where is the outrage this go around from present Alderman?
Its not ok for Alderman/woman to get on TV and say its not that bad…


Thats my 2cents and 3/5

Greg Morehead

posted by: HhE on February 18, 2013  7:18pm

This evening, driving up Highland from Whitney, I was impressed with how the street was cleared curb to curb.  Cresting Prospect, I was dismayed to see how much had not been done down to Winchester.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on February 18, 2013  7:38pm

It’s not safe to back out of a driveway, either, if there’s a full car-length of snow still piled three feet high on either side of your driveway exit, and the same on the other side of the street so you can hardly make a three point turn coming out. 

I do get that they can’t do everything.  But I agree that there are still significant safety issues, and more explanation is needed.

posted by: Wildwest on February 18, 2013  7:53pm

I have a silly money saving idea, why not just plow as much as possible during a storm and then just dump some sand on it and call it good until it melts? sand on ice is almost as good as asphalt and might keep speeds down as well(since we all know speeding is not a priority with the NHPD). Sand is cheaper than salt and millions of people drive on it all around the world during snow season.

And yes, on my busy one lane road scraped to the asphalt we have had unchecked speeders since it was plowed.

posted by: urban ed on February 18, 2013  9:35pm

“Our standard for removal is safety issues, not convenience issues,”

OK, Mr Smuts (whom I normally admire very much), lets review: I just took my family out for an end-of-(sorta)-vacation meal. Between Exit 51 and the heights:

*Numerous one-lane roads.
*Piles or snow obstructing sight lines at intersections and some driveways.
*covered sidewalks….all over the place but the biggest offenders were commercial properties, the railroad, and *ahem* the city, BOE, and parks department.

And after all the noise that was made about making the streets safe for students….After the much-vaunted and/or reviled decision to open school tomorrow…Conditions are *unsafe* to allow kids on the streets.

My kids are getting driven door-to-door tomorrow. Anyone who cant do that….My recommendation is keep them home if you can. This is simply nuts.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 18, 2013  9:36pm

Easy fix for this would be for the city to require people park on different sides of the street 2 days after a snow storm so that the plows can simply push the snow out of the way. For example, park on odd side before and during storm. Plow comes by and cleans up even side. Everyone moves to even side. Plow comes the next day and clears the odd side; everyone moves back to the odd side.

posted by: AMDC on February 19, 2013  6:59am

I do not recall anyone in certain NH neighborhoods complaining when they received largesse from the City in the form of nice granite curbs, often in front of burned out buildings.  THat’s OK, right?  So the City caters to the big pocket-big shots in EastRock/St.Ronan area. You are surprised??
The rest of us, not needed for votes and not big shots, get the leavings… Get used to it. It’s getting worse: not better

posted by: SaveOurCity on February 19, 2013  9:30am

What a mess!

...and its not better in affluent neighborhoods.  Everit St (home to many Yale faculty and the President of the University) looks like a war zone.

Can’t believe that Smut’s had he audacity to indicate that the streets are safe.  In MANY places, there is barely one lane for 2 way traffic + pedestrians.

Well New Haven, welcome to the 1%.  We pay tax rates higher than 99% of the cities in the US and we get city services that are worse than 99% of the US.  If you are skeptical, take a drive to Hamden, Branford, Wallingford, West Hartford….etc - its like a different world.

posted by: HhE on February 19, 2013  9:44am

AMDC, I know some people who live on St. Ronan, and the nicer areas of East Rock.  As a rule, they are the ones calling out the loudest for fiscal responsibility.  (I for one care not for granite curbs—I have lost two tires to them.)  One bright light:  I doubt Gary or Justin would stand for this nonsense. 

3/5ths is essentially right.  A city wide policy of park on the even side on even days, and the odd side on odd days on all streets during and after a storm would go a long way.

posted by: Wildwest on February 19, 2013  10:08am

Policies are great if they are used and/or enforced. I would love to see the age old policy of requiring folks to shovel their sidewalks enforced but for some reason the city just wont step up and do anything.

posted by: robn on February 19, 2013  10:32am

I think the city may have erroneously overplowed some lesser used streets like Ronan but in any event, the important thing was to clear emergency lanes. There’s a limit to how much snow we can remove. Its snow. It will melt in a couple of weeks. In the mean time I personally don’t mind pulling over to let cars pass on on some side streets. If you’re going too fast to do this, you’re going too fast period.

posted by: S Brown on February 19, 2013  10:47am

“It’s just not feasible to clear the streets to the level of convenience that ideally we’d like to provide.”

Once again the residents of New Haven are told to lower their standards and be thankful for whatever they get from their city government. Hey it’s not like we pay eye popping taxes or anything.

posted by: anonymous on February 19, 2013  11:05am

I agree with WildWest.

The sidewalk along Stop and Shop on Whalley isn’t even entirely cleared as of today. City Hall, Yale are spotless. That shows how bad things are.

posted by: robn on February 19, 2013  12:07pm


If your standard for clearing 34” of snowfall is returning city streets to completely clear and normal conditions, then yes, your standard is too high.

posted by: S Brown on February 19, 2013  12:53pm


That’s not my standard. And clearly there’s a middle ground between that, and what we actually got. But I appreciate you perfectly illustrating my point. The reason New Haveners get such atrocious service from their government is because they fool themselves into believing that this is as good as it gets. We could do a lot better if we cared enough to demand it.

posted by: Yaakov on February 19, 2013  12:58pm


Our standard should simply the level of service provided in West Haven, Hamden, and or any other town.

Yes there is a limit to what can be done, but a quick visit to any city or town around us shows that we are nowhere close to hitting that limit.

posted by: HhE on February 19, 2013  1:05pm

A better distribution of services aside, and the cooperation of all residents (as one wouid expect in the snow belt of NYS), the only way to get better snow removal is to increase taxes or decrease other services.

posted by: HhE on February 19, 2013  1:10pm

PS If we look at many of these photos (1, 5, 6, 7, and 8), parked cars were clearly a problem in snow removal. 

Also, photo number three is miss labeled.  That is clearly Highland, looking dow the hill towards Whitney.  I recognise Foote’s fence, and I just about make out my Father’s house, on the left, corner of Edgehill.

[Ed.: The caption has been fixed. Thanks!]

posted by: Curious on February 19, 2013  1:10pm

If you’re trying to make a left from State onto Court in front of Olde School Saloon, there’s no way to see oncoming traffic in one whole lane on the other side.  The lanes are passable, but the snow is so high that visibility is blocked.

Is that a safety issue or a convenience issue?

posted by: robn on February 19, 2013  1:20pm


I was driving through a fairly nice suburban neighborhood in Hamden just yesterday and what I observed is that they got essentially the same kind of plowing that we did. Clearance of major arterials and clearance of an emergency lane width on side streets.

posted by: Yaakov on February 19, 2013  1:34pm


In Hamden it seems that is the exception rather than the rule. I was driving around Hamden and West Haven yesterday, and the majority of suburban streets that I saw were plowed curb to curb. Entering New Haven and seeing our situation was almost embarrassing.

posted by: Nathan on February 19, 2013  2:38pm

While the issue of parked cars on residential streets - which the city could have prevented with a consistent alternate side parking rule for all streets - certainly blocked effective snow clearing operations, that dynamic does not explain why several major arteries had poor plowing that has created many half lane stretches, including some right-turn lanes that are critical to preventing traffic backups at intersections.

posted by: Norton on February 19, 2013  2:46pm

NortonParkway had no cars on the odd side (as per the instructions) for the entire week. One plow came by Saturday night and another on Wed. Afternoon after I put a call in to our Alderwoman. The street is still not clean curb to curb. One block up, Ellsworth is pristine. Glen, Dyer, Colony, Bellevue are all one lane only. The odd sides of those streets were also not plowed even with no cars parked.
While we might have one shoveled space for our car, how about oil delivery trucks and other service vehicles?

I can appreciate the severity of this storm and how much work the cleanup is, but it felt very willy nilly. I would love to see the city’s plan for how it allocated the trucks. When I called the EOC they couldn’t tell me when a plow was expected, yet literally ten minutes after getting off the phone with my Alderwoman, a plow came by.

posted by: swatty on February 19, 2013  3:43pm

Besides all the money it costs, snow removal “takes a toll on manpower,” Smuts said. “We had 7 days of 12-hour shifts. There’s a limit to how much you can get your personnel to do.”

Ha. This one made me LOL! Next time you go to the grocery store and buy a gallon of milk? Farmers work 12 hour days and more during planting and harvesting time year round! And there’s no union and no overtime!

But I’d say this about the roads: every one of these pictures has people parking on both sides of the street! Follow rules and your roads would look much better. Alders should be out there BEFORE (Greg M) the storm getting people to park correctly - not after bitching what the city did and did not do.

Thanks to the crews and all their hard work!

posted by: HhE on February 20, 2013  11:34am

swatty, I met a farm hand who worked on a diary in way up state New York for well under minimum wage.  I harder worker, and a finer person, I have never met. 

There are a number of lessons from up state New York here, and the foremost in my mind is how to get people to not leave their cars on the street.  I belive we will need to educate people starting in the fall about not leaving cars on the street, and then actively enforce parking bans with towing. 

Major storms like this one are part of our future.  We probably do need to invest in more powerful equipment (and taxes to match). 

I hope that rather than deal in blame, which tends to get people into CYA mode, we can learn as a city and get better at this.

posted by: Concerned Citizen's Friend on February 20, 2013  5:48pm

I picked up a friend on Pendleton St on Friday afternoon to get her out of the house where she had been snowed bound for 8 days.  A pay-loader was at the beginning of the street near Edgewood!  We went to dinner and stayed out for several hours. Her block of Pendleton had not been plowed or pay-loaded since a day after the blizzard.  Picked her up again today to transport her to a doctor’s appointment; still no plow or pay-loader has visited that entire area! Many streets west of the Boulevard are terrible, even Elm St. You need to weave in and out of snow piles while driving! Yet when I left her house last Friday night, I was detoured off Whalley to get back down to State St and the highways, there were payloaders and dump trucks waiting to clean to the curb from Broadway down to State Street, all side streets included!  I guess taxpayers in other than the downtown area do not count!  Is it any wonder why we hate paying our taxes for receiving no services!  I know this storm has been a costly venture but with an attitude like Mr. Smuts its no wonder our City government fails us!  What ridiculous comments to pit in print!  Hope he doesn’t run for mayor next!