Nfld. & Labrador

Downtown treacherous treks cleared after social media shaming

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen insists city "doing a good job."

St. John's mayor insists snowclearing process unfolded as it should

Night and day: The difference between the LSPU Hall stairs between Thursday evening and Friday at noon. (Sandy Morris/Twitter)

The difference between the steps of the LSPU Hall is night and day.

Fans of the late Leonard Cohen faced a tower of snow on Thursday night in order to hear Tower of Song at the annual Feast of Cohen tribute show, causing a flurry of post-concert complaints.

The show's opening night came on the heels of a fierce winter storm that hammered parts of the island Tuesday through Thursday, dumping 46 centimetres of snow on St. John's and leaving residents and city workers struggling to keep on top of snow clearing. 

That evening at the LSPU Hall, the steep steps leading from Duckworth Street to the Victoria Street venue were still covered in snow as musicians and concertgoers arrived. 

"That was life-threatening," said Sandy Morris, one of the performing musicians.

"Simply put, that was just the most dangerous situation I've ever seen, and hundreds of people coming."

By noon on Friday, the stairs were cleared. 

Sandy Morris said the stairs on Thursday night were 'life threatening' as hundreds of people attended a concert at the LSPU Hall. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The concert is in its 19th year, and has sold out all three of its shows. 

"The Feast of Cohen is no secret," said Morris. "It's advertised all over the place, so somebody at city hall — I think — should have been aware there was going to be a lot of traffic on those steps that night."

Morris said he had travelled back and forth to the hall Wednesday preparing for the show, and assumed someone would have the steps cleared by the time people started arriving the next night. 

He said his understanding is people from the hall can't clear the steps themselves, for liability reasons.

Morris says the city should have done the work sooner. 

"There should really have been police tape around those steps last night because they were treacherous for a human being to try to negotiate," he said.

Thumbs down in other downtown spots

The Feast of Cohen organizers weren't the only ones frustrated with the slow pace of city snow removal.

It just seems like the city doesn't get it, they don't care.… We have had one major snowstorm and it is just complacency.- Calvin Vincent

Early Friday morning, when Calvin Vincent arrived at Oliver's, the Water Street restaurant he owns, he was outraged to see about seven feet of snow piled up in front of his business and blocking the front door.

After starting to clean up the section of sidewalk in front of the eatery, Vincent eventually called the city.

As he expected, he said, the answer was, "We are doing our best."

"We get snow every year. It's not unusual. I am not sure why they can't figure out how to fix these problems," Vincent said, standing next to the mountain of snow.

He said the city bans people from parking their vehicles on the road during certain parts of the night. During those hours, he wants to see the snow removed from the street.

"Get your trucks down here, get your loaders down here … and take it away. Why is that so difficult? I have no idea."

By mid-Friday morning, a sidewalk plow was clearing the snow away from the entrance to Oliver's Restaurant.

But Vincent said he's starting to feel like downtown business are unsupported by the city.

"It just seems like the city doesn't get it, they don't care. I really don't feel that they care about small business downtown. Taxes are up. We have had one major snowstorm … and it is just complacency."

'We are doing a good job,' says mayor

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen disagrees that the city is falling down on the job.

"We understand some businesses were upset about it, but we were going through the process," he told reporters Friday afternoon.

"We are doing a good job, I believe, in getting the downtown opened up and better."

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen insists the city is 'doing a good job' when it comes to snowclearing in the downtown area. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Breen said the city doesn't do snow removal on Thursday, Friday or Saturday because bars and restaurants are busy and there are a lot of people out and about. 

He said snow in the downtown core will be trucked out Sunday. 

"Businesses need to understand, we had about 48 centimetres of snow and it's only been 48 hours … so this is going to take a while to clean up," said Breen.

"Staff are working hard at it, we have a plan in place and we're doing our best to keep up with it."

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