As Hoboken turns the clocks ahead an hour and looks forward to the solace of spring, residents have been complaining en masse on Facebook, in letters to the editor, and at Wednesday’s City Council meeting about struggles they faced this winter – struggles that they said were exacerbated by the city’s underwhelming approach to snow removal.
Mary Volpicelli, an elderly Hoboken resident, complained to the council Wednesday night that she broke her wrist after slipping on an unshoveled patch of ice on a street corner. In addition, Denise Vassilatos wrote on the city’s Facebook page that her 70-year-old mother’s car was ticketed and towed on an emergency snow route, despite the fact that the road was never cleared of snow and ice. Several other residents said the city should have removed the snow soon after it fell, rather than leaving it for days to turn to ice.
And Jonas Paterno, perhaps inspired by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s recent mea culpa over snow removal in his town, said on Facebook that the city of Hoboken should take responsibility for a job poorly done.
“Memo to City Hall, in the event you still don’t get it,” he wrote. “We’re mad. Politics 101: When you screw something up, admit to it, and assure the town that you’ve learned from your experience here and that it won’t happen again.”
Well, Paterno may finally get his wish.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act. People want the snow removed, but they also want lower taxes.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
Indeed, the city’s main response to complaints from residents about snow and ice in the streets has been to point to a city ordinance saying that it’s the responsibility of home and business owners to clear property around their land, as well as two feet into the street.
However, that didn’t explain the mounds of ice that were much further into the street at the end of last week, blocking dozens of parking spaces in Hoboken.
“Property owners have six hours to remove the snow,” wrote Daniel Mon on the city’s Facebook page. “The city of Hoboken has a month. And counting.”
Zimmer said last week that there has to be a better plan in place.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act,” she said. “People want the snow removed, but they also want lower taxes. But it’s important to me and to our residents that we keep the sidewalks safe for pedestrians. We’re going to look at how we can do that next year.”
City spokesman Juan Melli said that the piles of ice – which in some places took up two or three parking spots on Thursday – will be moved, but that the process is a slow one because the same crews in charge of snow removal have been tasked with filling the city’s potholes.
“Our main focus for those crews has been potholes and sanitation but they are still doing snow removal too,” he said.
The potholes, Zimmer said, pose a greater public safety threat than snow mounds, hence the city’s priorities.
According to a statement from the city, Hoboken crews have filled 752 potholes so far this year, including 284 potholes in the past week alone.
But even then, the city said, those repairs could be temporary, so drivers should remain diligent.
Currently, the holes are being filled with cold patch, which may become dislodged and require further repairs. The city will undertake significantly more permanent repairs once the warmer arrives, it said in a statement.
Until then, residents are asked to report any potholes via www.hoboken311.com. Reports of potholes on county roads will be forwarded to Hudson County for repair.
As for the rest of winter, forecasts on Friday said that Hoboken could see another storm this coming Wednesday and Thursday. Zimmer said that the city has the resources to withstand one more storm, including its final 200 tons of salt.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org