Officials said that 450 salt spreaders had been out since early Thursday morning and 1,700 sanitation trucks had been outfitted with plows.
But Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said that even with all the equipment the city had deployed, his agency faced a tough task as it worked to clear the streets through the night. He pleaded for patience, the New York Times said.
"A lot of people expect in New York City to see blacktop all the time," Doherty said. "It's going to take us a while."
In the Big Apple, where thick flakes fell Thursday evening, the storm will serve as a first test for the city's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who assumed his post Wednesday.
De Blasio said the city had "laser" focus as it braced for what was to come.
"We are ready," he said.
He urged residents to stay indoors and use public transportation if they must get around. But, he warned, delays were to be expected.
"Please, starting this evening, stay inside. If you don't need to go out, don't go out," de Blasio said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo activated the State Emergency Operations Center and also urged people to use mass transit, warning of possible highway closures due to inclement weather.
In neighboring New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency in anticipation of what was to come.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, meanwhile, ordered state employees to leave work early on Thursday to alleviate the evening commute. Workers were not expected back at their desks until mid-morning.
Officials also warned about the risk of freezing or hypothermia due to the bitter cold that was expected to set it.
In Boston, where strong snowfall is expected until Friday, temperatures were expected to dip to minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit.
School classes and state offices were cancelled for Friday in Boston.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick urged businesses to do the same, so road crews work more freely.
"These circumstances are dangerous," he said Thursday night. "There is an even greater anticipated snow accumulation."