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Blizzard aftermath: Frustration in Suffolk

Andrew Casey, 19, of Rocky Point, uses a

Andrew Casey, 19, of Rocky Point, uses a snowblower to clear snow from in front of Miller Place High School. (Feb. 10, 2013) Credit: Daniel Brennan

Driveways cleared, but not roads
Allyson Morreale, 36, and her family have watched one motorist after another get stuck in the snow on their street - Park Avenue in Ronkonkoma.

They themselves remain stuck at home, unable to leave until the Town of Brookhaven thoroughly plows their street. Morreale said she believes a truck made one pass Saturday, but none have come since and more than a foot of snow sat Monday in her street.

"It's just such a disaster. It's snow, then ice, then snow, then slush, just layers," she said. "People [whose cars were stuck] have been knocking on our door to use the phone and borrow shovels."

Morreale's husband had to hike through the snow to an plowed street to pick up food and other supplies for their family, which includes their 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. Her husband couldn't go to work at his Smithtown highway department position Monday, she said.

"Thank God school was canceled, because we couldn't get the kids to school," she said, adding of Brookhaven, "It's incredible to me that this is the best they can do. ... People worked hard to clear out their driveways but they still can't go anywhere" with the road unplowed.

The storm had created drifts around her home higher than her head, she said.

Morreale said she has called Brookhaven more than a dozen times. "It's a busy signal or no one picks up," she said. "I know it's a state of emergency. I understand that, but they have to have someone come here."

"It's really poor management," she said. "It's like our voices aren't being heard."


A neighbor to the rescue

Thank goodness for kind neighbors with snowblowers.

That was the sentiment on Reo Avenue in Port Jefferson Station on Monday, where one resident helped plow out a handful of his neighbors and opened the block out to Patchogue Road. No town or state plows have been spotted in the area, residents said.

Chris Prevete, a Cablevision employee, said he's been plowing since Friday night in an effort to fight the snow accumulation, with no help from Brookhaven.

"I've lived all over Long Island and I've never had to call the town to say 'please plow my street,'" Prevete said. He said he understood that the town would first deal with the main roads, but said at three days after the blizzard the side streets should be cleared.

His neighbor, Maureen Freeman, said Prevete's plowing was the only way her husband could get to work Monday.

"It's terrible," she said of the road conditions, but added that she thinks town workers are doing what they can. "I'm sure they're working hard," she said. "We've haven't seen snow like this in years."

But down the street on Reo Avenue, Frances and Thomas Commons said the town response has been a "disgrace."

"By today we should have seen the plows," said Frances Commons. "By today at least, the secondary roads should be plowed."

"We have a sick mother at home," Thomas Commons said. "God forbid something happens and the ambulance wouldn't be able to make it down the block."

It was Prevete's snowblower to the rescue for Thomas Commons to get to work Monday.

"That's how we survived -- not the town," Frances Commons said.


In Holbrook, risking the drive

Jeanne Santoro, 74, of Holbrook, said her son had to go to work Monday -- and risk driving on dangerous roads -- or lose a day's pay.

His commute had her worried for his life. Her son, Stephen Santoro, 40, works at a Medford deli and barely made it there, she said.

"He said cars were sliding and skidding all over the road," she said. "Furrows Road is a nightmare. If he gets into an accident coming home ...."

Furrows Road, Patchogue-Holbrook Road and Route 112 were a mess of slick ice and stalled cars, she said.

"No plows, no sand, no anything. The cars are stranded," she said. "It's a disgrace. ... $10,000 in [annual property] taxes and we get nothing."

Santoro said she has made numerous calls to Islip Town to no avail. "They're just as bad as LIPA," she said.

A woman in the Suffolk County executive's office has offered to find out for Santoro where the plows are, but Santoro said residents of her complex have been afraid to leave and brave the roads.


No ‘clear communication’ from Smithtown

The Town of Smithtown issued a snow removal update through its emergency alert communication system at 11 a.m. Monday morning. The update said:

"All information provided to the news media from the Office of Smithtown Supervisor is furnished by the Smithtown Highway Superintendent and his office. Projection times as to the neighborhoods plowed or to be plowed change based on difficulties encountered by blocked roads, equipment failure, breakdowns and other factors. Updates will change.

The Town of Smithtown Highway Department has over 100 pieces of equipment actively plowing local roads. We are being assisted by NY State as well in an effort to make all roads passable. Thank you for your patience during the aftermath of the storm.

In the event your road has been missed, please contact the Highway Department at 360-7500 or the Department of Public Safety at 360-7553."

Terri Alessi-Miceli, president of the Hauppauge Industrial Association, which advocates for the industrial park, said she contacted the town Sunday afternoon. She was concerned about the town roads in the park -- home to 55,000 employees and 1,300 companies -- being clear in time for work on Monday.

"We were assured that the roads would be cleared," she said. "They were not cleared to satisfaction at all" by Monday, she said. "People were getting stuck in the snow this morning."

Conditions grew worse Monday afternoon, Miceli said. "It's horrendous ... The roads have not been by any means properly plowed. We're getting large rivers. The drains are overflowing," she said. "Now, ice is going to form."

Miceli said the town did not say when roads would be clear Monday. "I think that's part of the frustration. We've had to reach out to them several times out of desperation, but there hasn't really been any clear communication from them about when the roads would be clear," she said. "That's a problem for us because we can't communicate to our members who are in the industrial park."

Given that the Hauppauge Industrial Park is a boon for the local economy -- "This industrial park gives the Town of Smithtown $19.3 million a year in total tax assessed values," Miceli said -- the treatment is rubbing people the wrong way.

"There are business owners in this industrial park who are extremely concerned about the safety of their workers getting out of work," she said. "It's dangerous out there."

-- Lauren R. Harrison

Port Jeff resident: Dysfunction in Brookhaven

Port Jefferson Station resident Bob Hall said that when he called Brookhaven Town on Sunday to report unplowed roads, a staff member told him that Supervisor Edward Romaine -- on vacation somewhere outside of Long Island -- was "monitoring the situation by phone," Hall said. "The other problem that exacerbates the situation is that [former highway superintendent] John Rouse is no longer around and Mike Murphy is second-in-command. How effective is he?"

"Since the first flake has fallen we haven't seen a plow" on Gary Street in Port Jefferson Station, Hall said. "I'm a 34-year resident and I've never seen anything like this."

His neighborhood, hoping to ensure clear passage for snow plows, pushed stalled cars to the side over the weekend, he said. "We went out to make sure the whole street was cleared, and nothing has happened," Hall said. "It doesn't seem like there's a coordinated effort here."

"I understand that we just went through difficult problems last year with Sandy," Hall said. "Nonetheless as taxpayers we're still paying the same taxes."

"I'd like to get a plow out here. But I'm trying to get the residents know how dysfunctional the town is," Hall added.


.....More on Brookhaven

A section of Coram remained unplowed as of Monday afternoon, said resident John McDermott, who lives in a residential area on Ascot Place off of Pine Road.

"I spent the last few days digging out neighbors," said McDermott, 50, who was stuck at home along with his wife and children on Monday.

McDermott said he made several attempts to contact Brookhaven agencies over the weekend.

"I called the highway department. I called the town, their emergency number. You get an automatic recording and then it disconnects," McDermott said, adding that there seems to be no way to leave a message. "I've left notifications on the town website every day."

"They expect us to pay our taxes on a timely basis, and they aren't doing their jobs," he said. "If I were an elected office holder in this town, I wouldn't expect a very secure future."


‘Locked in’ in Ridge

Thomas Devlin, 85, of Ridge, has missed two doctor's appointments. The first was canceled Friday at the height of the snowstorm. It was rescheduled for Monday and Devlin had to cancel again because five feet of snow pushed by plows in front of his door had in effect trapped him in his home.

His senior community, Leisure Village, had its maintenance company clear snow from the roads on Saturday, but the plows piled the snow in front of residents' house and garage doors, he said.

"We've been locked in since Thursday," Devlin said. "I'm on oxygen and I have a bad heart ... and now I can't get another doctor's appointment for two months."

"It was ridiculous," he said of what he described as bobcats pushing snow around, "especially to do this to senior citizens. We have nobody around us."

His complex's management company has been unresponsive, he said.


Stocked up, but snowed in

Nicholas Magalhaes, 38, and his family had stocked up on supplies before the snowstorm.

But Magalhaes, his pregnant wife and their 2-year-old son didn't expect to still be trapped in their home on an unplowed Coram street three days later. Halliday Road still had not been cleared as of Monday afternoon.

"We were pretty stocked up on food, milk and diapers, but you don't expect to be stuck for three days," he said Monday.

Magalhaes, a graphic designer who works from home, said his wife, four months pregnant and an art director for a real estate company, could not go to work Monday. The snow was up to his waist.

He said he has called the Town of Brookhaven 25 times and counting to get either no answer or a busy tone.

"The main frustration is there's no information," he said. "Are they coming? Are they not coming?"

He had heard that the trucks had come to his neighborhood to plow but broke down before they reached his street.

At about 4 p.m., his wife heard what she thought was the rumble and scraping of snow plows and the couple waited in hope to see whether snow would finally be cleared from their street.


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