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Queens Chronicle

How accurate is the PlowNYC map?

On some streets, the snow clearing did not mesh with city online claims

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Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 10:57 am, Thu Jan 16, 2014.

When last Friday’s snowstorm bore down on the city, questions arose — as in every snowstorm since the December 2010 blizzard that saw much of Queens go unplowed for days — on what the city’s response would be, especially under a new mayor.

Since that 2010 storm, the city has instituted a system that tracks its plows and salt spreaders via GPS and provides information on a citywide map that shows when a plow or salt spreader has cleaned a specific street.

The map also identifies primary, secondary and tertiary streets to give city residents an idea of what priority level their block is.

But after Friday’s snowstorm, some residents caught what appear to be some inconsistencies with the maps.

In one case, the map said 103rd Street between 103rd and Liberty avenues in Ozone Park was treated at 11:21 a.m. Friday, but the street, which is often one of the last in the neighborhood to be cleaned after a storm, did not see a plow until around 4 p.m.

Residents on the block say during bigger storms, the street often doesn’t get plowed until after the snow stops due to its lower priority.

The adjacent roads, 104th and 102nd streets are major thoroughfares between Rockaway Boulevard and Forest Park and are much busier.

The map did identify the correct times 104th Street — classified a primary route through part of Ozone Park — saw a plow. Two plows, one at 2:25 p.m. and another at 3:25 p.m., cleared the street, and those times appeared on the map.

In Bellerose, there was an issue on 86th Road between 241st Street and Cross Island Parkway. The small, one-block-route was not plowed until late afternoon at best, according to residents — and one said it was never cleared at all.

Sabrina Rosa, one of the residents, registered her complaints on Facebook on Friday after seeing the PlowNYC map.

“It says serviced 0-1 hours ago,” Rosa wrote at 4 p.m. “We have not seen a plow.”

A neighbor of hers, Angela Lee, also denied a plow had gone up the block.

“There was nothing,” she said.

Rosa said she called 311 to report the discrepancy.

The Sanitation Department did not respond to a request for comment on the map, but a pop-up note on the PlowNYC webside warns that the data may not be correct.

“You may find that weather conditions, construction projects, closures, or other events may cause actual conditions to differ from the data,” the note read. “Moreover, the data may contain inaccurate or incomplete information due to the passage of time, changing circumstances, sources used and the nature of collecting comprehensive information, any of which may lead to incorrect results. For example, streets that have a ‘tertiary’ designation may be plowed by non-GPS equipped vehicles operated by private vendors in severe weather conditions and, as a result, all of their collective plowing efforts will not be reflected on this site.”

The note doesn’t, however, specifically address the city claiming a street had been cleared when it had not.

Bellerose resident Brian Caltabiano said two days after the storm no plow had gone up 86th Road at all.

That many of the smaller streets were not plowed by the time the snow stopped Friday was not unexpected. Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty warned Friday that many secondary and tertiary streets would not be plowed for a while because the ferocity of the snow was so strong that plows had to keep clearing primary routes, like highways and main thoroughfares such as Woodhaven, Queens, Northern and Francis Lewis boulevards, before they could move to the smaller, less busy roads.

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