New York – These garbage men really stink.
Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts — a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.
Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.
“They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important,” said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.
Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department — and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan — at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents.
The snitches “didn’t want to be identified because they were afraid of retaliation,” Halloran said. “They were told [by supervisors] to take off routes [and] not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file.”
New York’s Strongest used a variety of tactics to drag out the plowing process — and pad overtime checks — which included keeping plows slightly higher than the roadways and skipping over streets along their routes, the sources said.
The snow-removal snitches said they were told to keep their plows off most streets and to wait for orders before attacking the accumulating piles of snow.
They said crews normally would have been more aggressive in com bating a fierce, fast-moving bliz zard like the one that barreled in on Sunday and blew out the next morning.
The workers said the work slowdown was the result of growing hostility between the mayor and the workers responsible for clearing the snow.
In the last two years, the agency’s workforce has been slashed by 400 trash haulers and supervisors — down from 6,300 — because of the city’s budget crisis. And, effective tomorrow, 100 department supervisors are to be demoted and their salaries slashed as an added cost-saving move.
Sources said budget cuts were also at the heart of poor planning for the blizzard last weekend. The city broke from its usual routine and did not call in a full complement on Saturday for snow preparations in order to save on added overtime that would have had to be paid for them to work on Christmas Day.
The result was an absolute collapse of New York’s once-vaunted systems of clearing the streets and keeping mass transit moving under the weight of 20 inches of snow.
The Sanitation Department last night denied there was a concerted effort to slow snow removal.
“There are no organized or wildcat actions being taken by the sanitation workers or the supervisors,” said spokesman Matthew Lipani.
Joseph Mannion, president of the union that represents agency supervisors, said talk of a slowdown “is hogwash.” But he admitted there is “resentment out there” toward Mayor Bloomberg and his administration because of budget cuts.
His counterpart at the rank-and-file’s union, Harry Nespoli, has also denied there is a job action, though he admitted his guys are working lucrative 14-hour shifts.
Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said only: “We would hope this is not the case.”
But multiple Sanitation Department sources told The Post yesterday that angry plow drivers have only been clearing streets assigned to them even if that means they have to drive through snowed-in roads with their plows raised.
And they are keeping their plow blades unusually high, making it necessary for them to have to run extra passes, adding time and extra pay.
One mechanic said some drivers are purposely smashing plows and salt spreaders to further stall the cleanup effort.
“That is a disgrace. I had to walk three miles because the buses can’t move,” said salesman Yuri Vesslin, 38, of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg — quickly becoming the public face of failure this week — spent a second consecutive day yesterday defending himself to critics of his administration’s handling of the storm.
He took reporters to The Bronx to explain that the city is coming back to life and to tout his administration’s efforts.
“Can’t work much harder,” Bloomberg said.
But Hizzoner admitted, “We didn’t do as good a job as we want to do or as the city has a right to expect.”
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty promised that every street will have been plowed by 7 this morning, but then he offered this hedge: “Will somebody find a street that I missed? Maybe.”
Bloomberg and Doherty also offered a series of excuses for the failed response to the blizzard. They blamed residents for shoveling snow into streets that had already been plowed and for tying up 911 with non-emergency calls.
“This was a failure in the operations and ultimately, as the mayor tells us very often, the buck stops with him,” said Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-SI).