New York City

How much will NYC’s Blizzard of 2016 cost to clean up?

January 27, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A plow piles up a huge mound of snow outside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center during Saturday’s storm. Now that the storm is over, what’s it going to cost the city to clean it all up? Photo by Andy Katz
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While most of the city’s major streets and highways (if not intersections) have been plowed, as of Wednesday some neighborhoods – especially in Brooklyn and Queens — were still digging out following last weekend’s record-setting blizzard.

Jonas, the second biggest snowstorm in New York since 1869, dropped 26.8 inches of snow in Central Park.

The outer boroughs, however, were hit even harder. A total of 34 inches of snow fell in Jackson Heights, Queens, and Staten Island’s Port Richmond was hit with 31 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Williamsburg received 29 inches.  

What’s it going to cost to clean up this mess?

While official figures are not yet in, if previous snow removal costs are any guide, New York City could end up spending anywhere from $57 million to $75 million — or higher — on this storm.

In 2015, it cost the city $2.5 million per inch to clear a total of 47.5 inches of snow and ice, according to a data analysis released Monday by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. By that measure, a 30-inch storm would cost $75 million.

As a comparison, that’s what Google is investing in solar energy this year.

A record-setting snow may not have record-setting cleanup costs, however. The city’s spending over the last 13 years was actually greater in years with lighter snowfall because the city must prepare for the worst regardless. Last year’s cost per inch to plow snow and ice was higher than the average cost of $1.9 million over the past 13 years, according to the comptroller’s analysis.

At $1.9 million per inch, a 30-incher would cost a comparatively economical $57 million to clean up.

“Removing snow can be a budgetary blizzard with costs that can reach into the millions on a per inch basis,” Comptroller Stringer said in a statement released with his analysis.

“Last year the cost per inch to plow snow and ice was higher than average, but a lot goes into making sure our streets are clear – from salt stockpiles to personnel costs to the number of inches of snow that falls,” he added.

Amy Spitalnick, director of Public Affairs for the Mayor’s Office of Management & Budget, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday, “Since cleanup is ongoing, it’s still too early to have a cost for this storm. The cost per inch does vary based on factors like the nature of the storm and the day of the week – some years it’s higher and some years it’s lower, so you can’t simply multiply that 10-year average by the size of the storm.”

Spitalnick added, “It’s worth noting that Mayor de Blasio rationalized the snow budget in 2014, bringing it up to $77M/year, to better reflect recent weather patterns.”

Mountains of snow

Andrea Hagelgans, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, tweeted that by Tuesday, the Department of Sanitation had plowed more than 7 million tons of snow — enough to fill Yankee Stadium 66 times.

And the city is not finished. Throughout the week, Sanitation had more than 2,300 pieces of snow clearing equipment out, with workers on two 12-hour shifts.

On Wednesday, the city mobilized 2,598 emergency snow laborers to clear bus stops, crosswalks and hydrants. (People may apply for these temp jobs by contacting the Department of Sanitation.)

The city is getting some free help as well. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers are outside assisting with clearing fire hydrants of snow.  



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