NY Post says it was a job action by Sanitation Department employees who deliberately delayed snow-removal as a protest against city budget cuts. A City Councilman from Queens says that several of the workers came forward to fess up.
The snitches "didn't want to be identified because they were afraid of retaliation," [City Councilman Dan Halloran said]. "They were told [by supervisors] to take off routes [and] not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file." New York's Strongest used a variety of tactics to drag out the plowing process -- and pad overtime checks -- which included keeping plows slightly higher than the roadways and skipping over streets along their routes, the sources said.
Keep in mind that the NY Post isn't exactly sympathetic to the cause of public employees (the paper described it as a "shameless plot"). Still, if it's true (or even sorta true) it could help explain why things fell apart.