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May 6

A Map of Where NYC Puts Its Giant Mountains of Snow

(Map of snow removal: red pins are for disposal location, blue pins for melter staging areas.)

Location, as they say, is everything. Especially in a dense city like New York—when snow falls thick and has the audacity to stick to the road, that snow has to go somewhere. Some of that snow gets piled in fort-like walls against parked cars after the Department of Sanitation’s snow ploughs go out, and some of it ends up in mountains scattered around the city.

But where exactly are those mountains located? And why? It’s no accident that you see the same big piles in the same locations. While some cities keep their snow locations secret, NYC gave Atlas Obscura and DNAInfo the coordinates for their designated snow disposal and melter staging areas.

In New York, after snow is cleared from the street, it’s sometimes hauled to snow disposal locations, where it awaits its turn to be vaporized out of existence. From there, it’s hauled to snow melter staging areas, where the city’s fleet of melters make quick work of those giant piles. (Melting staging areas are usually block-long streets, disposal areas tend to be lots or parking areas.)

In total, according to New York’s sanitation and parks departments, there are almost 50 sites around the city where the Department of Sanitation can make temporary snow piles, including 20 snow disposal locations and 28 melter staging areas. Queens has the most total sites (16), followed by Manhattan (12) and Brooklyn (10). Staten Island and the Bronx both have 5.

These locations are selected by the Department of Sanitation based on a few criteria. They’re usually parcels of empty, city-owned land. Often, they’re parking lots. The melter staging areas need to be need sewers that can handle the extra volume of water.

“We’re constantly melting snow,” says Keith Mellis, a spokesperson for the Department of Sanitation. However big those snow piles might look, they’re not meant to last for long.

This map is a collaborative effort between Atlas Obscura and DNAinfo New York. Click here to read DNAInfo’s version.