News Ticker

Mount Vernon Residents Furious Over City’s ‘Failed’ Response To Season’s First Snowstorm

City unprepared for season's first snowstorm that brings evening commute to a standstill

 ✔ 3-6 inches of snow brought traffic in Mount Vernon to a standstill Thursday evening.
✔ Residents left furious, some sitting in traffic for more than 3 hours on buses and in cars.
✔ Residents are angered by the city’s unpreparedness and ‘failed’ response to weather.
✔ Some said they are going to contact the Mayor and DPW and demand answers.
✔ The Mayor declared a state of emergency after the storm was mid-way thru the city.

Mount Vernon, N.Y – Mount Vernon residents were left furious Thursday evening after the city’s first snowstorm of the season brought the city to a standstill. Several officials, residents, and first responders were angered by the city’s response to the three to six inches of snow that blanketed the city.

One councilman was at a standstill in his car on Washington Street and Columbus Ave for up to 45 min.

One resident said, the city’s response today was an utter failure. “It is clear our Mayor and his commissioners were not prepared for yesterday’s  snowfall.” The City clearly didn’t properly prepare for tonight’s snowstorm — it was a mess.

The snow started around 2 pm with wind and ice mixed in. The snow began to build up on sidewalks, ice accumulating on streets making the roadways impassable.

By 5 pm Mount Vernon was under several inches of snow, and traffic was at a standstill. The city had become an immovable block of wall-to-wall cars.

Facebook blew open with stories regarding the challenges residents were facing trying to get home and pick up kids from school and daycare.

The city’s response today was an utter failure. It is clear our Mayor and his commissioners were not prepared for today’s snowfall.

Residents chimed in with some tweeting and Facebook posts from their vehicles as they sat in standstill traffic.

‘I’m tired, hungry, running out of gas and patience, I have to use the bathroom, I’m still stuck in traffic BUT I’m safe!’ – one resident tweeted. This is beyond ridiculous and completely UNACCEPTABLE! Just terrible.

Though there were not enough salt spreaders or plows on the roads, there were no traffic agents at key intersections to prevent gridlock.

However, Mayor Richard Thomas is pointing fingers at the City Comptroller, Deborah Reynolds, claiming she hasn’t processed purchase orders submitted by DPW. Apparently, there are 6 trucks out of service and waiting on parts.

The embattled mayor, who’s on trial for grand larceny and corruption allegations, says the city’s bills are not being paid and blames Reynolds.

City Councilman André Wallace told News12, he was at a meeting two nights ago and all of these issues were brought up for the first time. He questioned the timing of the need for repairs.

I reached out to Comptroller Reynolds’ office and she was unavailable for comment.

Sources tell me that the DPW Department is in a disarray. There is no leadership and the department is short staffed. The salt shed that houses the salt used in storms like yesterday, was dismantled leaving the salt exposed to the rain which makes the salt hard like cement.
Thomas said the materials aren’t there to rebuild the shed because the bills aren’t being paid. Sources also added the gas station where the DPW trucks refuel is not working. A temporary station was set up, but location unknown.

In the entire Lower Hudson Valley and the Bronx snow, freezing rain, and in some parts, sleet, made driving tricky.

But, call it whatever you want: a bad call, poor forecasting, crappy judgment, but the decisions at the top at MVDPW, MAYORS OFFICE and elsewhere were flubbed regarding this storm preparation.

In New York City, the wet snowfall and wind gusts downed numerous tree branches, Thursday. The George Washington Bridge outbound upper level was temporarily closed about 4 p.m due to a nasty multi-vehicle accident. The upper-level eastbound lanes were closed until about 6:30.

YCOP (Youth Community Outreach Program) in Mount Vernon where young boys and girls from the community go to for after-school activities – were forced to extend their hours, because parents were stuck in gridlock traffic and couldn’t pick up their kids in time. Mr. Henry Happ Wilson, Director and Program Developer of YCOP said on Facebook, their last pick up was at 9:30 PM.

“Soooo GLAD the decision was made to keep the after-school program open yesterday… Who knew the impact the storm would have on our parents getting home? A simple commute from White Plains that normally takes 20-30 minutes, took 2-3 hours. Some parents got stranded on the parkways and some even ran out of gas. But through it all, the YCOP after school staff was there for our parents. Last pick up – 9:30 pm; KUDOS to the staff and Volunteers for being dedicated to our families,” Mr. Wilson shared on Facebook.

But, Mother Nature is to blame too. We were going into a forecast of 1-3 inches of snow which was holding until mid-morning convincing officials it was just a straight salting storm. Then late in the afternoon towards rush hour, the storm blew open and the snow totals were increased to 3-7 inches.

Regardless, as a city mayor, it is his job to make sure that proper precautions were in place just in case of the unknown. Haven’t we learned anything from Sandy?

Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education delayed schools Friday morning which helped parents immensely after a long and challenging Thursday evening commute.

Now that the storm is over, residents are demanding the city conduct a review and develop a better contingency plan because what happened Thursday evening is simply unacceptable and it is only the second week in November.

“We as a community need to look deeper into the issues at DPW!!!,” Mount Vernon resident Cathlin Gleason shared with Black Westchester. “This is not about politics but people’s safety.”

The city and its leaders should hold themselves accountable. Sadly, this has become an all-too-common problem amongst a litany of others in Mount Vernon.

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About A'tif Khalil (18 Articles)
A'tif K. Coleman is a lifelong resident of Mount Vernon who has become a Mount Vernon Columnist for Black Westchester. A'tif's passion and love of the city he was born and bred drives him to wanting to inform the residents and speak truth to power and corruption. Mr. Coleman is also one half of the founders of the Save Mount Vernon movement.
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