New York City's sluggish response to the after-Christmas blizzard of 2010 is still costing it a year later, with more than $1.8 million paid out in claims so far, and more claims still pending, the city Comptroller's Office says.
Last year's Dec. 26-27 storm packed a wallop in the Northeast, dropping more than 2 feet of snow in some parts of the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration was criticized for its handling of the foul weather and its aftermath. Streets went unplowed for days, and cars, buses and other vehicles were stranded.
The Comptroller's Office said 1,196 claims were filed with the city in connection with the storm and its aftermath. They included claims from individuals who said they were injured on snowy and icy roads and walkways, and claims for damage to cars and other property from the city's snow removal efforts.
As of Dec. 23, 620 of the claims had been settled for a total payout of $1,855,152.53, the office said. The remaining several hundred claims were being investigated or have been dismissed.
"These claims are among the highest for any storm. There is still a cloud of additional claims hanging over the city, but the silver lining is that agencies have learned from last year's blizzard and seem better prepared," Comptroller John Liu said.
Among the largest settlements was $150,000 for a man who said he had slipped and fallen in a parking lot that had become snowy and icy after it was improperly shoveled by the city, the comptroller's office said. Another $100,000 went to a Brooklyn cemetery where headstones were damaged after snow dumped against a fence caused it to collapse.
In the wake of the blizzard, the city instituted a host of changes. Department of Sanitation trucks were fitted with global positioning devices, which have two-way communications that plow workers can use to better report to emergency commanders the status of roads and obstacles. And during snowstorms, teams of observers started canvassing the city with video cameras to send live feeds of street conditions back to emergency commanders.
As a contingency plan for future storms, a dozen officers from the police department's traffic task force are learning how to get into locked cars, prep vehicles for towing and operate the trucks.
In April, the City Council passed legislation that members said would prevent a repeat of the mistakes that took place during the December 2010 storm. The package of bills requires city officials to establish rules determining when they activate emergency operations and when they ask for help from the state and other jurisdictions.
Under the new measures, the city also must notify the public of disruptions to public services, make a plan for how to handle high 311 information hotline call volume in emergencies and publish an annual evaluation of the city's snow response.