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NYC finally returning to normal after the blizzard

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NEW YORK — A few minutes after a snowplow finally cleared his Brooklyn street, Vinnie Corollo fired up his SUV for the first time in four days.

His first trip would be to the grocery store, he said. And then he was starting a delayed vacation.

"I'm going to Florida," the 58-year-old said. "Enough of this."

The sentiment was echoed across New York as the city continued to dig out from a Christmas weekend blizzard and the anger over the response persisted.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said virtually every city street had been plowed at least once as of Thursday, while acknowledging the response had been uneven and promising to investigate what went wrong. "Some neighborhoods it was perfect, and some neighborhoods it was terrible," he said Friday on WOR-AM radio.

But it was too little, too late for some residents.

Alexander Lisitsyn of Brooklyn, whose street was finally cleared Thursday, said he was able to get to work only because he had happened to park on a main street several blocks away. But when the civil engineer got to his workplace near the Whitestone Bridge, it took him an hour to find a spot to park and another hour to shovel out a spot.

"My friend lives in New Jersey, and his street is perfectly clear. Three million people living in Brooklyn, and look at this situation. The mayor doesn't care about us."

Other streets were still coated in snow after the mayor said Thursday that plows had been down every street at least once, except where stranded cars blocked the way.

Meanwhile, the New York area's three main airports were almost back to normal, with only a few stranded passengers remaining. And for the first time since the storm hit, the city's hundreds of subway stations were all up and running Thursday — the day a fare increase took effect. The last of some 600 stuck buses had been cleared, as had most of the abandoned cars, the mayor said.

Meanwhile, the city's struggle with the snow was getting a boost from temperatures expected to approach 50 degrees Friday.

"Mother nature's going to help us, just like it hurt us," Sanitation Commission John Doherty said Friday on WOR. The city may collect garbage Monday for the first time since the storm, he said.

Bloomberg — a media mogul who has built a reputation as an able manager, adept at cutting through bureaucracy — defended the city's response to the blizzard earlier in the week but adopted a more conciliatory tone over the past few days as complaints of stuck ambulances and unplowed streets mounted.

Thousands of people called the city's 911 and 311 lines. And more than 930 lodged complaints with an elected watchdog, city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, according to a report he issued Friday. Most calls were from people infuriated that their streets were still unplowed; the most desperate were from people unable to get out to see a doctor.

"The response to the snowstorm was inadequate and unacceptable," Bloomberg conceded Thursday at an appearance in Queens. "Nobody is satisfied. We're accountable. I'm accountable."

The storm struck on Sunday in a city that has been planning to slash spending. But the mayor said budget concerns played no role. "We thought we had an adequate number of people, an adequate amount of equipment and the right training," he said.

About 100 Department of Sanitation supervisors in charge of coordinating the plowing fleet are scheduled to be demoted this weekend. That ignited speculation that disgruntled supervisors had sabotaged the snow removal effort in revenge. The heads of the two unions that represent sanitation workers said the rumors were false and insulting.

Bloomberg said officials were focused for now on removing snow before reviewing the response, but they have begun some scrutiny. Officials have hired an expert to examine how New York's 311 and 911 systems became overloaded, and they're asking the manufacturers of the city's garbage trucks — which also plow snow — for advice about whether they could be better prepared for snow duty, Bloomberg said.

Also, the city needs to look at getting private tow truck drivers and other private equipment into action sooner in future, Doherty said Friday.

Around the city, banks of plowed snow still made crossing some streets tricky on Thursday. But for many, things were closing in on normal. Connie Sigona, 62, of Bensonhurst whooped as a dump truck with a snow plow finally rumbled down her street.

The snow plow suddenly stopped in front of Sigona's house.

"We just got a call — we're only supposed to plow half of your street!" A worker in the passenger seat shouted, smiling.

"Oh no you don't!" Sigona shouted.

The worker laughed: "Just joking!" And the plow continued.

Sigona shook her head, relieved, and began calling her oil company to order a much-needed delivery.

Associated Press writers David B. Caruso and Verena Dobnik contributed to this report.