New Rochelle DPW Tackles Large Snow Storms…and Critics

Written By: Robert Cox

11731053593 d992646413Snow removal has been a hot topic around town, on City Council, on Facebook and Twitter:

All of this was compounded by concerns related to Early Dismissals and Delayed Openings with the City School District of New Rochelle.

Talk of the Sound sat down with DPW Commissioner Alex Tergis (virtually, via email) to discuss the snow removal effort for this year’s two major winter storms and to get a better idea of how New Rochelle DPW takes on winter storms. We wondered whether residents concerns are justified or exaggerated. We wanted to know how DPW critiques itself and how they approach storm clean up.

As with many things in New Rochelle, the answer is “it’s complicated”.

Snow removal in New Rochelle is not at the level that anyone would want least of all the DPW Commissioner.

Tergis has always been forthright in his desire for more equipment, more supplies and more men.

An analysis of snow removal capabilities in area municipalities, compiled by the DPW, supports the Commissioner’s claims that New Rochelle is severely handicapped in responding to major storms in every way imaginable. The numbers will be an education for many New Rochelle residents. More on that below.

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Tergis began the conversation by noting that due to the storm type, this week’s storm was a plowing event: there was a great deal of snow, it piled up quickly, there were very low temperatures before, during and after the snow event.

Salt availability was not an issue for this storm but in December an area-wide shortage of salt and failed deliveries led DPW to ration salt.

With enough salt or without, part of the problem with both storms is that the temperatures after both storms was unusually cold. Tergis explained that salt is only effective during the day when the solar effect and mechanical energy from tires helps melt the snow.

“To expect the roads to be down to blacktop the following morning given the nature of the storm and our constrained manpower, equipment and supplies is just not realistic,” said Tergis.

He noted that a common goal for municipalities the size of New Rochelle is that for a large snow storm all roads will be “open” by plowing within 16-24 hours of the storm’s end. The storm ended in the early hours Wednesday so that the goal was to open all roads by Thursday evening or overnight, a goal that appears to have been met.

Many residents have a different standard — they want all roads completely clear within hours of the moment the storm ends or before they want to leave their house whichever comes first.

The City web site clearly states that streets are plowed on a set priority: (1) primary and major artery streets, school streets, and streets serving emergency response facilities and heavy traffic; (2) secondary streets and streets with moderate traffic; (3) last of all is other streets, including cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets.

This effectively means that if you do not live on Route 1, North Avenue, Pinebrook Boulevard or Quaker Ridge Road or next to a school, hospital or heavy traffic area you are going to have to wait a bit and if you live in a neighborhood of small or lightly traveled streets and especially cul-de-sacs and dead ends you are at the bottom of the list.

This would explain why certain neighborhoods (famously, the West End) believe they are ignored during a major snow storm when it is, primarily, a function of the nature of the area — high density, prevalence of mixed-use lots and many small streets.

In years of covering major storms in New Rochelle — hurricanes, blizzards and more — Talk of the Sound has consistently found that residents often believe that their neighborhood is worse than some other and, just as often, that this belief is invariably unfounded. After a very bad storm, if trees are down or power is out or streets are clogged with snow it is typically a citywide event.

For those expecting immediate clean up after a major snow event, there is a note on the web site which clearly states: After a major storm, it may take two to three days for plow crews to clear all the streets (emphasis added).

Few residents bother to read the City web site.

The high standards (some would say unrealistic standards) are influenced by what many residents see in Scarsdale, Mamaroneck and Pelham.

The DPW Commissioner addressed that point.

“Municipalities in the area that have better road conditions have significantly more manpower and equipment per mile to plow as well as better material to use,” said Tergis.

New Rochelle’s Department of Public Works provided Talk of the Sound with a preliminary draft analysis of municipalities in our area.

The data is eye-opening.

DPW Snow Removal Comparables in Westchester Draft

The DPW Analysis shows that New Rochelle maintains 180 miles of roads with a maximum of 18 vehicles (not all vehicles are available at all times). The vehicles have salt spreaders and plows.

New Rochelle covers 10 to 14 miles per spreader and 10 to 14 miles per plot.

By comparison, White Plains maintains 150 miles of roads with 17 salt spreaders and 75 plows; White Plains covers 8.82 miles per spreader and just 4.5 miles per plow.

Cortlandt maintains 170 miles of roads with 21 salt spreaders and 50 plows; Cortlandt covers 8.10 miles per spreader and just 3.4 miles per plow.

Looking at neighboring towns, Scarsdale maintains 90 miles of roads with 12 salt spreaders and 20 plows; Scarsdale covers 7.5 miles per spreader and just 4.5 miles per plow.

Mamaroneck maintains 44 miles of roads with 6 salt spreaders and 19 plows; Mamaroneck covers 7.33 miles per spreader and just 2.32 miles per plow, the lowest (i.e., best) ratio of all municipalities in the study.

Tergis noted that the data does not take into account differences in manpower, equipment or quality of material — New Rochelle has less of all three.

“The math speaks for itself,” said Tergis, in characterizing the analysis.

Compounding all of this is the long-simmering issue of Salt Storage.

Council Member Louis Trangucci has been calling for a Salt Dome since he first got onto City Council more than 5 years ago. Tergis, who has often expressed his desire for a Salt Dome, recently told Council Members that large amounts of New Rochelle’s salt went bad due to exposure to the elements, a common occurrence where a large percentage of the City’s salt supply is dissolved each year by rain.

RELATED: Should New Rochelle Have a Salt Dome? A Few Words With the Salt Guru

“You cannot, year after year, cut jobs and not update equipment and not create stronger revenue streams before it catches up with you,” said Council Member Albert Tarantino.

As for complaints that some roads were “impassable” yesterday and today, Tergis said that his snow supervisors found that no more than a handful of problem streets were not properly opened by plowing.

Tergis said residents can help the DPW identify problem roads using information on the DPW web site.

“A list would be helpful to compare to what we saw with what residents experienced,” said Tergis.

One area of New Rochelle that has the subject of numerous complaints to Talk of the Sound since the storm ended has been the Larchmont Woods section of New Rochelle.

It is easy to see why area residents were upset. Forest Avenue, the main road through the area, was still snow covered this morning with a wet, sloppy, slush and side roads had an inch of hard-pack snow and ice.

Tergis said that DPW viewed Forest Avenue to be “passable” but did send a truck with a plow and salt spreader to take several passes along Forest Avenue a short while later.

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Tergis pointed out that road may have been cleared multiple times during the course of the storm but residents “blow, throw, and plow their snow into the roadways”.

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In the mixed use zones, he says many gas stations, lots, and other commercial or multi-family housing units are cleared of snow, with no significant piles from their cleanup to be seen on their properties; meanwhile adjacent sections of roadway have heavier concentrations of snow than the rest of the road, a sign that property owners are pushing snow from their property into the roads.

Residents pushing snow into the road this week was exacerbated by high winds and sharply dropping temperatures. Since the storm ended, the temperature has yet to get above 25 degrees Fahrenheit resulting in little or no snow melt.

Tergis said that his department continually sends trucks back through the City after storms to clear up problem areas but pointed out that responding to calls is a slow process and drains City resources.

This is complicated due to New Rochelle’s heavy reliance on sanitation trucks to plow roads; when storms overlap with garbage pick up schedules those trucks are pulled from snow removal duties for hours at a time. That was the case this week.

What becomes clear, the more you know, is that comparing New Rochelle DPW to White Plains, Larchmont or Scarsdale is like comparing Napoleon’s Grand Army of the Republic to the 100 guys who fought at The Alamo.

The City web site explains a great deal more but (again) few people bother to read it before getting themselves worked up over the issue.

Public Works – Snow Storm FAQ

1.When are the snow plows sent out?

The plow operators are dispatched immediately at the beginning of a storm and stay out continually during the storm. They are responsible for clearing over 176 miles of City roads.

2.Which streets are plowed first?

Snow plows first clear primary and major artery streets, school streets, and streets serving emergency response facilities and heavy traffic.

After those roads are clear, secondary streets are cleared and streets with moderate traffic. Lastly, all other streets, including cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets, are plowed. After a major storm, it may take two to three days for plow crews to clear all the streets (emphasis added).

3.What can I do if snow is blocking access to my mail box or driveway?

During snow plowing operations, the snow from the street will end up in front of driveways and mailboxes. The property owner is responsible for access to his/her individual driveway or mailbox.

The only way to avoid extra shoveling is to wait until the Public Works crews have done their final clean-up on the street.

4.What is my responsibility for snow removal?

In accordance with Section 281-4 of the City Code, it is the responsibility of every property owner or occupant to keep the sidewalk and fire hydrants clear from snow, ice and dirt. Snow and ice must be removed from sidewalk abutting their property and fire hydrants before 12 noon of the day after any snowfall which occurs during the night.

Snow Removal Regulations

In the event of a major snowstorm, the City Manager may declare a snow emergency. All non-essential vehicles are prohibited on City streets during a snow emergency. All snow emergency routes in the City of New Rochelle are posted with red and white signs. Cars must be moved from those streets immediately. All vehicles not moved hamper the snow removal and are subject to being towed. The vehicle owner will be responsible for the towing fee.

Snow Removal Responsibility

In accordance with Section 281-4 of the City Code, it is the responsibility of every owner or occupant of any house or other building and any vacant lot, to keep the sidewalk and fire hydrants clear and clean from snow, ice, and dirt. Snow and ice must be removed from sidewalk abutting their property and fire hydrants before 12:00 noon of the day after any snow fall which occurs during the night. It is a violation of the City Code to place snow into the street or abutting sidewalk.

20 thoughts on “New Rochelle DPW Tackles Large Snow Storms…and Critics”

  1. Domes, Tarps, and Equipment
    Similar to what Bob McCaffrey commented, I agree that residents who are more inclined to learn about the workings of their City are also more likely to do their part for their property. There were so few people out shoveling their sidewalks on Thursday that I had no choice but to walk my dog in the middle of the street. Considering that the streets were slush and some only given a one-time pass with the plow, this was a potentially dangerous proposition.

    In light of your reporting, Bob, I want to thank Commissioner Tergis and his staff for the work that they did during/after the storm. Did I enjoy sliding (driving) down Union Avenue? No, absolutely not. But this isn’t anything new since I moved here a few years back, and now (at least) I have some context as to why that is the case.

    What a shame that we are paying for salt that goes bad because we don’t have the space or facility to properly house it (enter anything to do with city-owned properties here — which isn’t unique to NR). As Council Member Lou continues to push for a salt dome, I am wondering, does DPW keep the salt covered with a tarp so that the salt doesn’t have direct contact with precipitation? I hope the runoff is minimal, because it wouldn’t be good for that brine to make its way to our waterways and vegetation.

    1. Salt Run-off is NOT minimal

      Perhaps someone can check me on this but I seem to recall that someone (maybe Lou ) told me that 40% of the salt is lost each year for lack of a salt dome.

      BTW, I will add to the article something I had intended to highlight from the chart.

      All of the other municipalities in the study have a salt dome. New Rochelle is the only one that does not.

      At the last COW meeting, Tergis told the Council that when they were attempting to lend or trade salt to other municipalities it was REJECTED due to the low quality of the salt.

      I have made my own recommendation to the City — make a deal with Larchmont to trade a tax abatement for the Sheldrake Environmental Center which is situated, in part, on New Rochelle property. Here is that article from 2012.

      Could a Tax Exemption for Sheldrake Nature Preserve Become Part of a Deal to Add a Leaf Transfer Station and Salt Dome in the North End of New Rochelle?

      My idea is that the strip of land on Pinebrook near Stratton could house a satellite DPW site to be a leaf transfer station in the fall and a salt storage facility in the winter. I have to find anyone who can make a cogent argument against this idea except the NIMBY crowd who want fast/better service from DPW but also insist on being services from the entirely opposite end of town.

      That attitude impacts all of us because sending trucks back and forth to the far North End to service a very small percentage of New Rochelle residents takes those trucks, effectively, “out of service” for long stretches of time as they spend 20 minutes each way going up and down to New Rochelle.

      For people like Noam and Barry, who profess to be “Green” the benefits of reducing the CO2 emissions alone ought to be enough to justify a satellite DPW facility at that location or some similar location (Ward Acres comes to mind)

      Of course, Noam and Barry are the same two guys who allow their constituents to shove all their leaves and branches and lawn clippings (along with various fertilizers and chemicals) into the Pinebrook median and thus into the the Pine Brook that runs into Beechmont Lake and then act surprised when the lake is covered in algae each summer.

      1. North End Dome
        OMG, Bob. Do you dare suggest a dome in the north end? Barry would plotz! He complained about the horrible sight there would be driving down Albert Leonard Drive and seeing a ‘dome’ over the tennis courts…………..can u imagine his reaction to a salt dome????

      2. Put it to a vote!
        For starters, I believe that what I have proposed would have virtually no ACTUAL impact on anyone. For those like Barry whose eyes might be offended by the site of a front end loader…they will just have to get over it.

        There are people who do live near that strip — maybe about 10 houses. But those people chose to live next to Stratton, Pinebrook, the Hutch and the fire station so why should they complain about a small satellite DPW facility that gets used for a few days in the fall and before/after a snow storm. What is that really? Maybe 15 days out of 365.

        If that sounds terrible, I believe it is the SAME ARGUMENT that Barry used regarding the Mercedes Dealership.

      3. The North End Dome

        Haven’t you heard that Barry is depression over the condition of the trees at Ward Acres. First, he would like to do away with the geese and then have volunteers cut the vines around the trees. Let’s give him time, perhaps a front end loader will be in his future.

        All kidding aside, I wonder if the north end would be that opposed to a satellite DPW. Perhaps they do no realize it is an option. We are only hearing from Barry and his narrow minded position on the matter.

      4. Would North End be opposed?
        Last time I checked, the City Council all says they make decisions based on what is best for the City as a whole not just for their district.

        Here is a chance for Barry and Noam to put that to the test.

        I am unaware of any argument against a North End Satellite DPW site.

        North End residents get better service.

        Costs are lower to provide the service so they and everyone else benefits from less spending.

        Eliminates waste — how many miles do these trucks log each year?

        Better for the environment — obviously.

      5. Salt Run-off is NOT Minimal
        Isn’t that strip of land along Pinebrook, which you identified in a prior article, just a few feet of grass and trees with a stream running through it for the entire length. Does that stream feed Sheldrake Lake? Would it present a problem in regards to salt and other run-off from leaf piles? There must also be a reason why ownership by Larchmont seems to supersede the State of New York in the southernmost portion.

      6. you tell me!

        You know more about that then I do. What do you know?

        As for “run off” if the salt is housed correctly, run off is not an issue. That’s the whole point!

        I have not heard of “leaf” run-off. What is that?

      7. Pinebrook Blvd is Unsuitable for Salt Storage
        For decades, the area of Pinebrook Blvd from the Hutch overpass and continuing south on Stratton for about a half block (opposite the firehouse), used to flood, until NR did some major drainage work there in the mid-late 1960’s. At the time I lived on Rutledge Rd.

        There probably are still enough drainage problems to make that a bad place for salt storage.

        Davis School, about 8 blocks away, sits on a hill that is the highest point in New Rochelle, and one of the highest points in southern Westchester. Water draining down Harvard, Stratton, Rutledge, Daisy Farms, Rogers, Waverly, etc, find its lowest point at the corner of Stratton and Pinebrook.

        This is also true of drainage from the altitude of Weaver St down Stratton to the low point at Pinebrook.

        And Carpenters Pond, the catch basin for much drainage, itself drains in the low area parallel to Waverly, directly towards the junction of Pinebrook Blvd and Stratton, and towards two other lakes.

        Salt should definitely not be stored near Pinebrook Blvd, which tends to be the lowest point along its entire length.

        Salt should be stored in City Yard. City Yard should remain where it is, or be moved to the industrial area between Potter and Fifth Aves. City Yard should definitely NOT be moved to Beechwood, which has its own issues of drainage and access.

      8. Brian,
        If you want salt to be


        If you want salt to be stored at City Yard then just say so instead of going through an elaborate explanation of why a particular location that is not City Yard is not suitable in your mind.

        If you start with your conclusion — that salt should be stored at the current City Yard location — as a premise then you will always end up at the same place.

        Circular reasoning is the comfort food of logic.

      9. I’m Open to Other Areas for Storing Salt
        I’m open to other areas for storing salt.

        I was trying to figure out what areas to risk polluting, yet would be convenient to the Public Works vehicles in bad weather.

        Obviously, anywhere the PW vehicles are stored, would be a convenient location for storing salt.

        The industrial area between Potter and Fifth Aves, is more central to NR. Being an old industrial area, it probably is already a bit polluted.

        Pinebrook Blvd would be amongst the least suitable areas, for the reasons I stated.

        I think other areas might be suitable for storing salt.

        Any area for storing salt should be central to NR, be easily accessible to Public Works vehicles in poor weather and be an area where stored salt would be unlikely to leech into our streams and lakes. It should not be in a valley between ridges, such as Pinebrook Blvd, nor should it be on a hillside. The salt needs to be stored at a relatively flat area.

        Perhaps City Hall’s parking lot should have the salt dome, as it is on our main, wide, north-south road, central and easily convenient for dispersal throughout New Rochelle. It’s already public property and available, so no additional real estate needs to be bought.

        A more northerly location with good access, but more expensive and perhaps unavailable, would be to store salt at the A&P parking lot at Quaker Ridge Rd. But I’m unsure of health issues if it is near food markets and restaurants.

      10. Your definition precludes the North End

        The whole point of a North End DPW satellite facility is so that DPW workers do not have to drive up and down the full length of the City to service the far reaches of the North End.

        If Davis School is the highest point in the area and you want to rule out any location that is on a hillside or the “watershed” that flows into streams then you have effectively ruled out most of the North End. When you layer on your other disqualifies such as “a place where DPW trucks park” and describing parcels zoned commercial or industrial (as private property the Quaker Ridge Shopping Center is not an option) you have made that about 99.9%.

        Given your concern for “leaching” and “hillsides” and protecting water I’m unclear why you think the current site of the DPW yard is preferable as the salt is currently piled on old, cracked asphalt and a yard that slopes into the Sound.

        What you are missing is that storing salt properly in a covered structure situated on a concrete pad will not leach nor will high wind disperse the salt — that is the entire point.

        So, if you have a large salt dome at the main DPW Yard and a smaller one at a North End satellite facility then concerns about runoff and leaching go away. If you have a proper home for the salt you can put it anywhere a salt done would fit. That can on top of a stream or in Ward Acres or at Firehouse Station 5.

        One style of salt dome is essentially a concrete bunker.

        To me, your concerns appear to me to be justifications for an ideological point of view not based on reason or logic but a sort of zealotry that is immune to reason.

        The starting point for a discussion is not every objection, real or imagined, that any person might raise but the fundamental question of whether a North End DPW Satellite would be a benefit and if so how and how much value would that bring.

        If a determination is made that such a facility would have little or no benefit then it would not be worth doing regardless of the cost side of the equation.

        With a clear understanding of costs and benefits a sound, dispassionate, decision could be presented to City Council and the public.

        What you are doing here — and those like Barry Fertel have done in the past — is to begin the discussion with an “over my dead body” speech.

        I do not accept that there can not even be consideration given to a North End satellite DPW facility.

        That anyone would seek to cut off any consideration tells me they know or believe that the benefits will far outweigh the costs and their fear-mongering is a projection of their own fear that the merits of this idea are so blindingly obvious that their wi be widespread support among taxpayers who save money and North End residents who get better service from a team dedicated to supporting their own neighborhoods during winter storms.

        If we can spend $100,000 on a fire department study then surely we can take some time to do an internal cost/benefit analysis.

        Noam does not want this idea. How do we know? Because if he did he would have made sure it was incorporated in the citizen budget committee (an idea he lifted from me) which he controlled and manipulated to give him political cover for advancing his own agenda.

        So Barry and Noam are Nay votes. I want to hear from the other 5.

      11. 10% not 40%
        I spoke to Lou. The number is 10% of the salt runs off.

        On about $400,000 to $500,000 a year spent on salt that comes out to be about $45,000 a year that disappears for lack of a salt dome.

        Lou says a salt dome might cost $250,000.

        A straight line payback on a salt dome is about 5-6 years.

        The RFP for Echo Bay went out 8 years ago.

        Do the math!

        PS, this says nothing about the other costs of not protecting the salt. More on that in a future article.

  2. Welcome to the 21st Century
    Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and Scarsdale Highway Departments all “brine” primary and many secondary roads with liquified rock salt the day before a major storm.

    Driving around, you see what look like stripes on the roadways long before a snowfall begins.

    Using a liquid ice-melter jumpstarts the melting process because salt needs moisture to be effective. Brine doesn’t bounce or blow off the road surface so material is used more efficiently. If the storm is delayed salt residue remains on the road ready to begin work when precipitation begins.

    The results are exactly the opposite of New Rochelle, blacktop the day the storm ends, instead of using Quaker Ridge Road as an Olympic bobsled venue.

    1. Wish we had Brine
      Sounds like there are a few other things we need — liquified rock salt and sprayers to coat the roads.

      If we do not have a decent salt and we do not have a salt dome I cannot imagine New Rochelle getting these “luxury” items.

  3. Alex is doing good work with the deck he was dealt!
    Good work Bob,

    Alex is doing good work with the deck he was dealt! I am glad Alex Tergis the DPW Commissioner gave you the time and openly discussed what he has to face; I believe Alex is doing good work. He came into a DPW Department that was a disaster of miss-management, poor planning and dysfunctional, like many parts of New Rochelle and City Hall.

    Yes, if you are from the south or west side of New Rochelle things can be a little/very difficult. You have gotten the short end of the stick for years. We have had several early storms to deal with, subzero temperatures, holidays and I believe we lost a few vehicles due to breakdowns and the fire. Sometimes you have to decide which are more important, Xmas trees, snow, garbage, recycling and or the leaves all at the same time. I fully support the DPW Commissioner because this is something he is working out currently. He can’t make up for the years of prior screw ups over night!

    I am not making excuses for the DPW Commissioner, just being realistic. Having an operational background and being active and involved with some people from the city, I am familiar with the obstacles they face. With all the RFP’s that went out from the DPW Department last year, you can see he has a work in progress and that is more than we have had for a very long time, someone who knows what he is doing and likes what he is doing. The monsters of poor management and planning of City Hall can’t be taken apart and repaired overnight.

    I would urge residents to give him a call, talk to him yourself and have conversation rather than complaining. Do some of the little things like clean a storm drain, clear out a fire hydrant, and pick up the garbage you walk past rather than leaving it for someone else to pick up. Go back to doing the little things so Alex can work on the bigger problems that he faces. Also attend some Council Meetings get involved urge your friends and neighbors to do the same. While we need to get rid of some/a lot of dead weight in this city, some of the people do a good job and do care.

    Good Luck!

    More snow on the way!

    1. DPW and City Yard
      The mayor admitted that the city yard has been neglected for 10 years in anticipation of development on that property. The same is true for the Armory. What city would do that? Now it seems Alex Tergis is their scapegoat. Well we are wise to the ways of this mayor and city manager. Commissioner Tergis is doing the best with what he has been given and that is not much. It is time city council demand that the basic city services be delivered before we lose another good commissioner.

      1. DPW and City Yard
        I agree with you, Laraine. It’s time we stop making the DPW Commissioner the scapegoat. Also….I can’t believe we store salt out in the open. What does it take to get a dome? C’mon, City Council……I’m sure you can find the money for that one important item; cut down on the consultants’ fees and order a dome.

      2. Why have a salt dome and what does it cost?
        I put in a call to The Salt Institute, a North American based non-profit trade association dedicated to “advancing the many benefits of salt, particularly to ensure winter roadway safety, quality water and healthy nutrition”.

        I am hoping to find an expert who can answer the following questions:

        1. How do you recommend road salt be stored?

        2. Why is it important to store salt in the recommended manner?

        3. Roughly speaking, what are the costs of a salt dome able to store 20,000 tons of salt?

        I will add an update to the story once I have answers to these questions.

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