By now you (five days after the storm first hit) would think that New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg would get it right, but he is still fumbling the ball. He says he is “Sorry” about the poor response to the blizzard, but then he defends Sanitation Department Chief James Doherty and says that he is the best head of sanitation that New York City ever had. Doesn’t this sound something like George W. Bush defending FEMA head Michael Brown after the debacle of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans?
To add insult to injury we get a report in today’s NY Post that the sanitation bosses in the outer boroughs ordered a work slowdown as a protest of the mayor’s budget cuts for the department. Now, if this is true, it is disturbing on many levels, but it also can be seen as a criminal in light of the deaths in Brooklyn and Queens because streets remained unplowed.
As for Bloomberg, either he is in complete denial of how poor the response was, or he is still basing it on looking out his window in his mansion and seeing clear Manhattan streets. At yesterday’s news conference Bloomberg assured everyone that Doherty vowed that all city streets would be cleared by 7 AM today (Thursday, December 30). Well, that didn’t happen, at least not here in Queens, and I am not sure about the other boroughs, but I’m kind of thinking they’re going to need more time. Maybe lots more time.
Bloomberg also defended the rationale of clearing “major” roadways first. Apparently, this means all the streets in Manhattan before the ones in the other boroughs. He also noted that “tertiary” roads would remain as the last ones to get plowed. Well, again lost in his la-la land of Manhattan, Bloomberg doesn’t realize that most New Yorkers (those who live in the outer boroughs) actually live on those tertiary (or third class) streets, not like him in the palaces along Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and Central Park.
Some people in other areas of the country are no doubt laughing at us and our response to the storm. Blogger dharma55 called New Yorkers “blizzard wimps” in her article on Blogcritics. The truth is we are blizzard wimps, but why is that? Why are New Yorkers not conditioned to handle such major weather events?
The answer, dear readers, is because of our city government. This storm is a perfect example. It was downplayed from the beginning, and then after it was clear that forecasters were wrong and it was going to be a major weather event, even then there was no declaration of emergency. By the time the storm hit with all its fury, the city was stuck in a no-win situation, and the populace was lost in the blizzard.
Other cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and Buffalo handle much worse weather much better than this. Why? Because the local government has prepared for it, and thus the citizens are prepared too. Bloomberg and company are more concerned with people getting to Broadway shows during a blizzard than getting to a hospital. It is the obvious truth, and people died during this storm because of it. Wishing that big storms go away and come back again another day does not work, not in New York City or anywhere else.
So yes, we “blizzard wimps” here in New York are stuck in our little houses on clogged tertiary roads, waiting for the plows to unclog our streets. We are not making excuses either. Many New Yorkers (and I know because I am one of them) have taken shovels in hands, lots of them, and many have dug out their cars, houses, and businesses, only to have nowhere to go or no customers because the streets are not passable, the buses and trains are not running, and people are caught in this winter miasma and getting angrier by the minute. This is horrific for everyone, but especially those in poor health who can’t get to hospitals or those homebound persons who can’t get assistance or meals that they need.
At this point many people have wasted a week of their lives battling something that should have been handled differently. Whether it was a sanitation slowdown, a clueless administration, or a Mayor who is behind a curtain and working meaningless switches like the Wizard of Oz, the bottom line is the Yellow Brick Road was only plowed in certain places. You can bet that tomorrow night in Times Square, when the Mayor watches the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, that many New Yorkers are going to be thinking how appropriate that is because the ball was indeed dropped, and as of yet no one accepts responsibility for the fumble.