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Snow emergency declared for New York City

A woman walks her dog between snowed-in taxicabs

A woman walks her dog between snowed-in taxicabs in Manhattan's Greenwich Village neighborhood. (Dec. 27, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

New York City on Tuesday afternoon declared a snow emergency, asking the public to avoid unnecessary driving and warning that vehicles blocking the ability to plow streets will be towed at the expense of owners.

Learning from the city's abominable snow cleanup in the post-Christmas weekend blizzard, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said earlier in the day that the city had jumped out ahead of the approaching storm and will be ready for what could be more than a foot.

"We will be plowing the streets from the outset," said Bloomberg, who expects the snowfall to begin in earnest after midnight.

The city also has lined up 200 pieces of snow removal equipment from private contractors and will be putting laborers to work armed with shovels to clear out major intersections.

The pre-positioning of private snow removal equipment will allow the contractors to attack snow on tertiary streets and work forward to meet up with city plows working the primary and secondary roadways, said sanitation commissioner John Doherty.

The city's failure to bring in private contractors and their equipment and to hire laborers was found by officials to have been among a number of missteps by City Hall in the December blizzard.

Bloomberg also said officials will be assessing whether to declare a snow emergency - which would clear traffic from major roads - early and report their recommendations to him.

It was revealed during a city council hearing Monday that neither Bloomberg nor his top deputy, Stephen Goldsmith, were told that Doherty and transportation commissioner Janette Sadek-Khan had refrained from declaring an emergency. Goldsmith said the failure to call an emergency created major problems in the blizzard cleanup.

Bloomberg also said the city will have NYPD tow trucks out in force to take care of stranded vehicles.

"Please don't drive if you can avoid it," Bloomberg said.

Officials will decide by 5 a.m. Wednesday if public schools are to be closed, added Bloomberg.

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