I know Apocalypse Snow is the title of a film about skiing, but it just seemed apropos as I look at what has happened to New York City in the last few days since the big blizzard hit. Other appropriate titles could range from Dawn of the Dead and The Walking Dead (in reference to the city’s response to the storm). No matter how you look at it, people died and suffered and someone must be held accountable.
I’ve seen footage from television cameras in helicopters passing over the city, and you would think Manhattan was in a completely different time and place than Brooklyn or Queens. This is where the mounting anger and frustration come from in a very understandable way. I saw abandoned cars and a city bus in a short walk yesterday, but the panorama offered by a camera in a helicopter indeed invokes images of those doomsday films: abandoned cars and trucks every and anywhere, deserted streets, and a feeling like the authorities long ago repaired to their well-supplied bunkers while the populace was literally stuck in their tracks and left to fend for themselves.
The horror stories also mount: a young Brooklyn mother-to-be, in labor and bleeding in the vestibule of her apartment building, waited for a response to 911 that came ten hours too late. The baby died after they were both taken to the hospital. A Queens woman calling 911 about her ill mother was forced to wait hours for a response and the mother died. Another Brooklyn woman called about her stricken father who had died, and she had to wait overnight with the corpse in her apartment until an ambulance could arrive. Are unplowed streets to be blamed for these things, or is it more pernicious: an almost total breakdown of the system meant to serve and protect New Yorkers?
These are just some of the stories; there are many more, including passengers on the A train being forced to wait in a tunnel for seven hours. Anyone who has been in a NYC subway car knows that seven minutes is a long time to be in a crowded car, but seven hours? This is ridiculous. Then to rub salt in the wounds, after this and many other incidents where buses and subways were stuck or not running, the Metropolitan Transit Authority announced fare increases to go in effect as a New Year’s gift to beleaguered passengers.
If I didn’t know any better, I would think the character Gru from Despicable Me was running this city, but at least he is revealed to have a soft side and to actually care about people in the end. Here Mayor Mike and company seem content to let people stew (or is it freeze?) in their homes and apartments, with their cars stuck out in the streets. Even senior citizens, reliant on the Meals on Wheels Program, are trapped without food and waiting for expected daily meals that never come.
So, yes, this does seem like a city that is being run by an ad hoc committee instead of an administration (and especially a mayor) who has been on the job long enough to be able to handle things like this. If people start invoking the name of Mayor Lindsay (who after a big blizzard in 1969 basically did about the same thing to Queens and the other outer boroughs), they would be right on the money. Lindsay, who had presidential aspirations, was finished after that bungling of the storm clean up. Perhaps this will once and for all put the final nail in the coffin of Bloomberg’s notions of running for higher office.
I know this storm hit a large area of the nation, and it has been a difficult time across the country, and many millions of people have been affected. Any time you shut down JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark Airports for any length of time, it is going to hurt people all over, including people on other continents waiting for flights that never came or planes that could never take off.
Here in our little corner of the world we have had to suffer, and if people can blame George W. Bush for Hurricane Katrina and President Obama for the Gulf Oil Spill response, then surely we can all rise up and blame Mayor Bloomberg for this horrendous response to the blizzard of 2010 here in New York. People are angry, and the Mayor says he is angry too about the response to the storm. Well, instead of playing it like the Queen of Hearts and calling for heads to roll, maybe the Mayor should look in the mirror, mirror on the wall.