Snow What?!

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Jerome Ave. and E. 18th St. in Sheepshead Bay. (Elisabeth Anderson/The Brooklyn Ink)

Yet another snowstorm dumped over a foot of snow on Brooklyn yesterday, and while there those who could relish a cold day spent indoors, for many others the concept of a snow day did not apply. Our correspondents fanned out to find the people who help ensure that life in the borough goes on regardless of the weather outside. Take a look at what we uncovered:


This is one of the harshest winters Louis Muriente has seen in his 31 years as a mailman, and it will also be one of his last. He has walked his route through every kind of New York weather, but time will soon accomplish what weather could not: Muriente is 57 and approaching retirement.

In the meantime, a snowstorm is not going to deter him. On Thursday, Muriente was following his familiar path through the streets of Red Hook, where he has become a fixture in the last decade. A series of low-strung brick warehouses lined the street, many of them topped with barbed wire. Red and blue cranes soared above the docks to the west.

On many streets the only sound was the gritty tread of Muriente’s oversized black rubber boots, which are essential for plowing through waist-high snowdrifts and murky brown slush puddles. He pushed a small cart slung with blue canvass bags full of mail, which he would reload two or three times from relay boxes scattered around his route. The sidewalks were mostly not shoveled, so he stuck to the street.

“You gotta be climbing mountains, pushing and pulling the cart,” Muriente said as he squeezed to the side of the road while a plow rumbled past. “It’s very strenuous on your body. It’s not fun.”

Untitled from Melanie Brisbon on Vimeo.

Yesterday was a relatively light day because the delivery trucks were delayed by snow, so Muriente left the junk mail behind. Still, he estimated he would make about 700 stops while walking four to five miles, as he does every day.

“They say mailmen are in the best shape,” he mused. “My doctor said I’m in great shape.”

Most stops were industrial buildings where Muriente just slipped letters through the slot, but at others people greeted him at the door with a “Hey Louis, how ya doin’?” On one street, a bearded Hasidic man in short sleeves stood outside drinking a cup of coffee in front of a large metal rolling gate.

“You got snow tires for that, Louis?” he called as Muriente passed. Muriente smiled broadly and waved. A few blocks later, a couple of kids paused their snowball fight and walked expectantly up to him.

“Nothing,” Muriente said good-naturedly. “You get nothing.”

Around 3:30, as the muted orange glow at the edge of the sky sunk down to the horizon, Muriente stooped at an iron green relay box and opened it with his postman’s master key. He pulled out a couple of bags bulging with mail and exchanged them for the empty ones on his cart. As he straightened up, a black SUV rolled to a stop on the street. A man leaned out the window.

“You know you’re due some sick leave, right?” the driver called. Muriente laughed and clasped the man’s outstretched hand.

“See you later, Louis,” the driver said.

“All right Ron,” Muriente replied, then turned back to his route.

-Jeremy B. White


Biswajit Dey does not turn a profit when the snow buries Brooklyn. He is a produce vendor downtown on Joralemon Street. He is 37, of average height, and wears a bulky, drab beanie on his head.

Biswajit Dey, 37, sells produce on Joralemon St. in Downtown Brooklyn
Biswajit Dey, 37, sells produce on Joralemon St. in Downtown Brooklyn. (Joe Deaux/The Brooklyn Ink)

He commutes from Queens every morning, buys his fruits and vegetables a few blocks from where he sells them, and rolls his cart a few blocks to a spot in front of the Brooklyn Municipal Building. During the summer, Dey, says he makes an average of $120 to $130 a day.

But fortune is not as kind during the winter, and it is especially difficult for many street vendors when a storm – especially one like Thursday’s – hits.

“It’s a lot of food I bought in the market and people are not coming, so a lot of food is going to be spoiled,” Dey said. After buying his produce from the market, snow forced Dey to hire a gypsy cab. He put the food in the trunk of the car and transported it to Joralemon Street where his food cart awaited.

The cab cost $20. He paid another $30 to the man who helped him push his cart. Call it a convenience fee. The problem with this convenience is that on a typical winter day, Dey spends about $350 for the produce and makes $400 for a net profit of $50. But the cab fare and the fee to his associate ate them up. Which meant that Dey would do no better than break even.

“Something is better than nothing,” he said. Then he grew philosophical. As it happens, he earned a masters in physics, he said, in his native India. The work that he and his fellow vendors do, he explained, was aimed at making things easier for their children.

“It’s difficult for us,” he said. “The next generation will be in a good position. We’re trying for them.”

Dey adds that he and the other vendors do this for their families. “The next generation will be in a good position. We’re trying for them.”


Hassan Bhuiya, who works in a newsstand a few blocks down Court Street, shrugs off the nuisance of a drop in sales that comes when the snow begins to fall. “What can you do?” he said. “You can do nothing.”

Hassan Bhuiya, 32, works at a newsstand on Court St. (Joe Deaux/The Brooklyn Ink)
Hassan Bhuiya, 32, works at a newsstand on Court St. (Joe Deaux/The Brooklyn Ink)

He came to work late on Thursday — 9:30 A.M. He knew the schools and offices would be closed and so could afford to take it easy.

“We know winter, and it’s like, on a snow day everything is going to be a little bit slower,” he said. “It’s okay today.”

-Joe Deaux


Mr. Khan – he declines to give his full name – drives a gypsy Town Car and regards bad weather with a zen-like sense of equanimity.

“The business is as you’d expect,” he said as he sat in his parked car, waiting for fares outside the B and Q subway station at Sheepshead Bay/East 16th Street.  He had been on the job for five hours and now, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon had picked up only three customers.

He tried to see things in a positive vein. He noted that the neighborhood hadn’t been plowed properly, and besides “driving conditions are 50 percent good.”


High school students Chris and Justin shovel snow in Sheepshead Bay. (Elisabeth Anderson/The Brooklyn Ink)
High school students Chris and Justin shovel snow in Sheepshead Bay. (Elisabeth Anderson/The Brooklyn Ink)

Justin, 15, and Chris, 16, started their day early, clearing out cars, sidewalks, and front steps for family and neighbors.  Chris borrowed his shovel from an aunt, who also paid him $20 to shovel her steps and front walkway.

Justin, who bought his shovel at Stop & Shop, got $60 from one customer for clearing out his car.  While he didn’t make as much yesterday as during the post-Christmas storm, he was still pleased with the day’s take.  To stay a step ahead of the competition, he sought work at houses as opposed to storefronts and apartment buildings.

“Everyone that wants money does it,” Justin said.

“Other people are lazy but that’s alright for me, that means more business for me.”

– Elisabeth Anderson & Audrey Yoo


Michelangelo Maldonado lives under the Gowanus Expressway. He sleeps in a different spot every night. He calls this “traveling.” The expressway provides a roof and shelter from the wind. But on snowy nights his jerry-rigged cardboard shack will fill with water and he has throw it out and find someplace else to sleep.

Maldonado, who is 59 and from Puerto Rico, spent Wednesday night, as the snow fell, under the expressway between 43rd and 45th streets. He found it impossible to sleep. Snow, he said, is “a curse and a blessing.” A curse because of his discomfort. A blessing because it could put a few extra dollars in his pocket.

A short bearded man who wears a homemade Afghan pakol hat, Maldonado is well known in the neighborhood.

Maldonado was able to ride his bike. Others, like the owner of this bike on Avenue Z, weren't so lucky. (Elisabeth Anderson/The Brooklyn Ink)
Maldonado was able to ride his bike. Others, like the owner of this bike on Avenue Z, weren't so lucky. (Elisabeth Anderson/The Brooklyn Ink)

So it was that on Thursday, he somehow rode his bicycle along Fourth Avenue, a long shovel wedged in the handlebar’s basket, looking for work.

“Do you need help?” he asked everyone is a voice that is at once engaging and grating.

He spotted an elderly woman and her grandson contemplating the engine of an SUV. Maldonado drew closer and poked his head under the hood.

“Do you need help?” he asked.

He took it upon himself to kneel under the car and diagnose the problem: a leaking radiator. He poured in some antifreeze. The engine started again. They drove off without giving him a dime.

He was not upset; he makes it a practice not to charge elderly women. Besides, he had just made $10 helping a neighbor shoveling out his car. He bought tobacco and walked into a Quick Stop Deli at the corner of 44th Street to get some coffee.

Maldonado says he doesn’t need weather forecasts because he knows when a snow storm is closing in. When the cold air loses its bite, he knows it is time to start building a new, warmer shelter and prepare for a day of work.

-Louis Imbert

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