40 years ago, snow caught Queens – and Lindsay – by surprise
BY Owen Moritz
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, February 9th 2009, 3:45 AM
Mayor John Lindsay touring Queens after the Blizzard of ’69. AP
Mayor John Lindsay touring Queens after the Blizzard of ’69.
The forecast was for flurries.
Just one day later, as New Yorkers dug out from 20 inches of snow, the reality set in: dozens killed, the borough of Queens crippled, the mayor buried beneath a blizzard of insults.
Forty years ago this week, New York City was pounded by the storm that nobody expected: 15 inches in Central Park and 5 more at Kennedy Airport, one of the worst on record.
Television meteorologists predicted only a chance of snow before the flakes began falling Feb. 9, 1969.
Instead, a ferocious storm blew in. Schools closed for three days, mail service disappeared and Queens was cut off from the other boroughs.
Forty-two people died, half of them in Queens. The snowstorm quickly became a political firestorm, with angry New Yorkers hurling insults like snowballs at beleaguered Mayor John Lindsay.
In Kew Gardens, Queens, the mayor was booed after exiting a city truck.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” a woman yelled. “It’s disgusting.”
In Fresh Meadows, a woman called the mayor a bum. On Horace Harding Blvd., Lindsay entered a pharmacy to call City Hall. When he exited, 200 people taunted him with a Queens version of the Bronx cheer. Lindsay listened, ordering “all available manpower and apparatus” sent to the borough for snow removal. And later that winter, at the slightest forecast of snow, crews were called out on overtime.
The storm exposed the sorry state of the city’s snow-fighting equipment.
For decades later, residents still remember the wicked winter blast.
“We tried walking up a hill on Henley Road and you couldn’t walk,” Tony Buflione, 87, of Jamaica recalled this week. “You walked up 10 feet and fell back 20 feet.”
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