Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that disgruntled sanitation workers sabotaged the cleanup after the blizzard last week.

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NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that disgruntled sanitation workers sabotaged the cleanup after the blizzard last week that left some neighborhoods snowbound for days, people who have been briefed on the inquiry said Tuesday.

The inquiry is focusing on whether there was a work slowdown and whether it constituted an effort to pad overtime. If so, two of those people said, the actions could constitute wire fraud or wire-fraud conspiracy, both federal crimes. Both people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

City officials have said the cleanup’s primary obstacle was the large number of vehicles stuck in the middle of streets, which left many impassable to snowplows.

Critics have said the decision by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration not to declare a snow emergency or to ask sooner for private-sector help, as well as the city transit agency’s delay in invoking a full-scale emergency plan, meant thousands of cars, trucks and buses remained mired in snow-clogged streets well into the storm.

Evidence to support rumors that some sanitation workers intentionally slowed their efforts has been scant. The leaders of the two unions that represent sanitation workers and supervisors have denied that a slowdown occurred, as have Bloomberg and the Sanitation Department’s commissioner, John Doherty.

The source of the ire among sanitation supervisors has been attributed to the planned demotions of 100 sanitation supervisors, a job title the Bloomberg administration saw as bloated.