Image: Snow plow and bus stuck in Brooklyn
Mark Lennihan  /  AP
Men with a shovel and buckets of salt pass a snow plow and city bus that were both stuck on Monday in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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updated 12/27/2010 6:04:34 PM ET 2010-12-27T23:04:34

A windy winter storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on New York City also whipped up criticism about how the city responded to it.

Some New Yorkers in the outer boroughs complained that the city took too long to plow their neighborhoods, ignoring them in favor of wealthier Manhattan areas.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the fast pace of snowfall — 2 to 3 inches per hour at some periods overnight — and the amount of people who abandoned cars in the road delayed the progress of the plows.

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"Those cars have to be towed before plowing can resume, which really slows things up," he said.

Officials said crews were concentrating on main roadways and warned that side streets might not be cleared until Tuesday.

For the record, the city deployed 1,600 plows for a snowstorm that delivered 20.9 inches in February, as measured in Central Park. For this latest winter blast — which dropped 20 inches — 1,700 plows, plus 365 salt spreaders that were converted into plows, were working on the streets.

Fire officials said the unplowed roads were slowing their responses to emergencies, and snowbound residents in Brooklyn and Queens said many streets, including main thoroughfares, were impossible to traverse, making it difficult to get to work.

At New Enrico's Car Service in Queens, all 90 taxis in the fleet were grounded — either trapped under snow drifts or stuck on impassable streets.

Story: Flights resume at New York airports

"I'm furious at Mayor Bloomberg, he's a rich man, so he doesn't care about the little people," said livery driver Julio Carpio, speaking in Spanish. "I have to work, why aren't people out there plowing? Why does the mayor always go on TV the night before to say, 'We're all set with a fleet of salt trucks,'? and then you never see a single truck. They always abandon Queens."

Bloomberg, a billionaire who barely tolerates complaining, downplayed concerns and encouraged New Yorkers to enjoy the snow or take advantage of the unexpected free time by attending a Broadway show.

"There's no reason for everybody to panic," he said. "Our city is doing exactly what you'd want it to do."

Snowstorms can bring a chill to a mayor's popularity among his constituents.

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A 1969 storm dumped a little more than a foot of snow in New York City but dogged then-Mayor John Lindsay for many months afterward, contributing to his narrow re-election win that year. Some streets in Queens weren't cleared for days, and Lindsay was accused of harboring a Manhattan-centric attitude.

Late in the day on Monday, as criticism began to build, Bloomberg headed to a southwest Queens neighborhood to greet residents at a local bakery. He also made a stop in Brooklyn and was heading to Staten Island.

State Sen. Carl Kruger, who represents parts of Brooklyn, called the city's response to the storm a "colossal failure."

"Forecasters predicted this blizzard days in advance," Kruger said. "There was clearly insufficient planning, and New Yorkers are paying too steep a price. Someone has to be accountable."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Northeast digs out of snow daze

  1. Closed captioning of: Northeast digs out of snow daze

    >>> the place. this one was the real thing. and there are piles of snow throughout new york city . for that matter, throughout the eastern seaboard . this is what an average new york city side street looks like. piles of snow this big and larger. cars buried. the problem is, this isn't an average new york city side street . we're standing in the middle of 49th street , just near the base of the world famous 30 rock christmas tree where millions of people come to see this site every year. this churning blizzard starting in the south, came up through new york city . again, the mid-atlantic, all the way through new england. and this was a whiteout here at this time yesterday. a history maker , no doubt. records fell along the length of the storm. 80 million americans were impacted by the storm, and look at that stat, 35 million americans witnessed blizzard conditions. transportation completely paralyzed. trains, planes and automobiles, all of it came to a complete halt. highways blocked to traffic. air travel , forget it. at the end of the day , when the storm is all said and done, it's estimated 6,000 total flight cancellations, domestic and international. my colleague, lester holt out in it all day and starting things off for us tonight in manhattan. lester, good evening.

    >> reporter: new york took the hardest hit from this, about 20 inches in the area i'm standing. up to 2 1/2 feet in other parts of the metropolitan area . keep in mind, all of this in the back of some pierce and howling winds. therefore, a city that usually prides itself on jumping back from these sorts of things rather quickly finds itself still struggling to recover tonight. the big apple woke up this morning frozen in time. the storm dropped up to three inches of snow an hour at times. too much for nows to keep up with. it even lit up the skies with lightning and sent claps of thunder booming over manhattan. it was a one-two punch that turned the storm into a blinding blizzard.

    >> a lot of snow, but have we seen winds like this before?

    >> it was the combination of the two. may believe you go back in history a hundred years or so, but it's been a long time since we've seen a some of 60 miles an hour winds and 20 inches of snow.

    >> reporter: states of emergency were declared in at least six states from the carolinas up through new england. snow totals range from 12.4 inches in philadelphia, to just over 19 inches in massachusetts. the new york area was hardest hit, with 29 inches on staten island , and 32 in nearby new jersey. normally bustling, new york streets were littered with abandoned cars, buses and emergency vehicles . tonight, the city's ems city is reportedly overwhelmed with a backlog of calls.

    >> not enough people listened to oured our admonition.

    >> reporter: passengers stranded for six hours sent photos and reports by cell phone to new york one television.

    >> it is very, very cold.

    >> reporter: the tomorrow barreled up out of the south yesterday and for a time it was virtually the only thing moving up the i-95 corridor. amtrak canceled new york -boston service. airlines canceled 1,400 flights in new york on sunday. all three new york airports remained closed well into this afternoon.

    >> we've been waiting for this trip all christmas break .

    >> reporter: in massachusetts, toppled power lines left tens of thousands without power and made it difficult for firefighters to save this burning house in brockton.

    >> it's a nightmare. that's the word.

    >> reporter: dangerous conditions in philadelphia, even forced postponement of last night's scheduled game between the eagles and minnesota.

    >> the reason this game has been postponed until tuesday is out of concern for public safety . travel in and around. that's the reason, not what we're seeing here.

    >> reporter: here in new york tonight, the head of the union that represents ems workers says because so many ambulances are stuck, response times are up to three hours for emergency calls here, brian, adding more urgency to clearing this city's 6,000 miles of streets.

    >> lester holt on this cold night a few blocks away from our location here in new york . lester, thanks.

Photos: The East Coast digs out

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  1. Snow covers the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport's Terminal 4 on Tuesday, Dec. 28, in New York City. Flights have slowly started to resume in New York but lines to rebook have been long. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. People sleep and eat on the floor while waiting for a flight at Terminal 4 of John F. Kennedy International Airport Tuesday. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A New Jersey Transit train arrives at the Princeton Junction station Tuesday in West Windsor, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A front-end loader removes snow in New York's Times Square on Tuesday ahead of New Year festivities. (Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A doorman shovels a path on the east side of Manhattan on Tuesday after the blizzard dropped 20 inches of snow in the area. (Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Dave Duncan sits in his Honda Civic, buried on the street, in Asbury Park, N.J., on Tuesday. (Beth Defalco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Travelers wait in ticketing lines at New York's LaGuardia airport on Tuesday. (Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Icicles melt in the afternoon sun as temperatures rise into the high 30s Tuesday in Hamilton, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. This traveler at Miami International Airport was among the many waiting Tuesday for flights after the Northeast blizzard caused backups across the country. (Jeffrey Boan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A young person sleds down a snow covered hill at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia on Monday. A blizzard pummeled the Northeast on Monday, dumping up to 29 inches of snow, disrupting air and rail travel and challenging motorists with blowing snow and icy roads at the end of the busy Christmas weekend. New York City, eastern New Jersey and western Long Island were the hardest hit by the storm. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Travelers carry their luggage through a snow bank on 7th Ave. in front of Penn Station after a snow storm in New York, Dec. 27. A blizzard pummeled the Northeast on Monday, dumping up to 29 inches of snow, disrupting air and rail travel and challenging motorists with blowing snow and icy roads at the end of the busy Christmas weekend. New York City, eastern New Jersey and western Long Island were the hardest hit by the storm. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A windswept beach looks desolate following a snow storm on Monday in Westport, Conn. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Children play on a mound of snow on The Boardwalk, Dec. 27, in Atlantic City, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Gregg Smith shovels out after a heavy snowfall in the Boston suburb of Marlborough, Mass., Dec. 27. A powerful East Coast blizzard menaced would-be travelers by air, rail and highway Monday, leaving thousands without a way to get home after the holidays. (Bill Sikes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Alexa Canning and Talia Quinn fly through the air after hitting a jump on their sleds in Norfolk, Massachusetts. (Matt Campbell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A man shovels snow on a street along the Brooklyn waterfront, Dec. 27, in New York City. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Commuters, who were trapped over night, sit on parked trains at Penn Station in New York City on Monday. (Andrew Gombert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A woman exercises in a snow covered pasture in Durham, N.C., Monday, after a powerful East Coast blizzard that moved through Christmas day. (Jim R. Bounds / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A strong gust of wind blows snow in front of a man in Philadelphia, Monday. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A woman walks her dog between snowed-in taxicabs following a major blizzard in Manhattan's Greenwich Village on Monday in New York City. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Elena Amaral shovels steps at Trinity College during the storm in Hartford, Conn., Monday. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A homeowner clears snow from the end of his driveway, Dec. 27, in Norfolk, Mass., following the blizzard which brought more than a foot of snow in the Boston area. The storm dumped snow from Atlanta, Ga. to Maine. (Matt Campbell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Michael Howard of Albany, N.Y., shovels out his vehicle on Monday. (Mike Groll / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A woman walks through the snow in Manhattan's East Village in the early hours of Monday. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A New Jersey state trooper arrives to help after cars crash during heavy snowfall on Sunday near Columbus, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A worker clears snow from the seats at the Philadelphia Eagles stadium. (Tim Shaffer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The storm moved up from the south, where areas like Raleigh, N.C., saw snow over the weekend as well. (Jim R. Bounds / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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Interactive: Powerful winter storm bears down on North East coast

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