This week marks the 44th anniversary of the infamous Feb. 9-10, 1969 snowstorm. It was a storm that created a political crisis forever etched in the annals of municipal politics and a lesson to all future politicians in the politics of snow removal. Forty-two people died, of which half were from Queens, and 288 were injured.
Mayor John Lindsay had been keeping the sanitation budget tight, resulting in poorly maintained, defective equipment that was left outdoors and had to be dug out itself just to get started. There also was talk of sabotage as the sanitation workers, who had struck in 1968, were still bitter.
The paralysis was so bad the New York Stock Exchange was closed, but the outer boroughs were especially neglected, many areas not seeing plows for days. The mayor traveled to Rego Park, Kew Gardens Hills and Fresh Meadows, only to be constantly mocked and heckled by the residents. That fall he lost the Republican nomination for re-election but won the race as a third-party candidate. In 1971 he switched to the Democratic Party, positioning himself for the 1972 presidential election. But it was too late — he was forever branded as ineffective by the snowstorm. His career in politics was over. Lindsay eventually moved to Hilton Head, SC and passed away there in 2000.
Mayor Bloomberg seemed to take a lesson from Lindsay’s downfall — at first. In February 2006, when 27 inches of snow fell, the mayor cleared the streets quickly. But during the Christmas Blizzard of 2010, Bloomberg was in the Caribbean, the snow piled up and, aside from the death toll, it was February of ’69 all over again.