Reporting Marcia Kramer
NEW YORK (CBS New York) – The storm that’s just hours away from dropping even more snow on the tri-state may be nothing compared to the blizzard, but no one’s taking any chances.
Some areas north of New York City could see another foot of snow.
New York City crews say they are at the ready and spent hours Thursday getting more than 1,700 plows and trucks prepared.
It was the same story elsewhere in the tri-state, like in North Hempstead on Long Island, where workers loaded up salt and sand spreaders. In New Jersey, crews were busy getting more than 250 plows and spreaders ready along the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised that this storm will be different, vowing that the city will be prepared to clear all the snow. He’s also making big changes in how the city responds, reports CBS 2′s Pablo Guzman.
Preparing for the Next Storm
“I don’t think anything is going to change on my block,” Vincent Barba, of Queens Village, told CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey. “The plows won’t come for three four days, and people will have to just try to dig themselves out.”
“I thought that the mayor didn’t respond the way he should’ve,” Midtown resident Greg Lord said. “I thought he should’ve been more assertive, and I thought he should have at least apologized and try to make amends.”
The mayor was doing everything he could Thursday to let residents know that last week’s blizzard blunder wasn’t going to happen again.
“I realize there were problems with the city’s snow-cleaning efforts last week,” Bloomberg said. “We want to assure all New Yorkers that we are doing everything in our power to make sure we don’t experience those kinds of problems again.”
To make sure it doesn’t happen again, the mayor is really shaking up the response. Scout teams will now be deployed, able to send live video back to the command center, which will give supervisors “eyes” on any problems as they happen.
GPS devices with two-way capability will also be installed in 50 trucks in Brooklyn, and one in Queens, in a pilot program for instant response to any issues that arise. All sanitation workers – 5,900 of them – will also get re-training on snow emergencies.
“We will have the availability of 1,700 plows, should we get into a plowing storm tonight,” Sanitation Department Commissioner John Doherty said.
“Demonizing public workers all around the city, I think it’s a travesty that this billionaire thinks he’s ‘the Big Boss’ – and we, the people, are the ones who are suffering,” Park Slope resident Tom Gogan said.
Mayor Bloomberg Under Pressure in Blizzard Backlash
Despite promises that things will be different this time around, heads rolled in the Department of Sanitation Thursday as Mayor Bloomberg took action to avoid another catastrophe – and it could be just the beginning of the purge, reports CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.
“Department of Sanitation Commissioner Doherty, as you may know, also made some management and personnel changes in Brooklyn that will help fix some of the problems we identified during last week’s storm,” Bloomberg said.
The first casuality of the blizzard response fallout was Emergency Management Services Chief John Peruggia, demoted because of a disastrous backlog of 1,400 911 calls at the height of the storm. Abdo Nahmod, who has been overseeing the department’s Emergency Medical Dispatch, will replace Peruggia, who held the top job for six years, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano announced.
Also facing intense criticism was Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who was out of town when the storm hit and in charge of clearing the snow that stayed piled up for days.
“I just thought that it was time to have a fresh look,” Bloomberg said. “Since things didn’t work out as well as we had hoped, it’s time to have somebody else come in – and sometimes, a new guy can do it better.”
Closer Look at Issues with Current EMS Trucks
Sources also tell CBS 2 that Joseph Bruno, commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management, is on thin ice with the mayor.
Bloomberg reportedly blames Bruno for failing to declare a snow emergency, failing to recall city workers until nine hours after the blizzard began, and for failing to find a way to tow cars, fire trucks and ambulances that got stuck in the snow.
“It’s not my decision to decide who does or does not lose their jobs,” said Patrick Bankhen of the EMS union. “In my opinion, the commissioner of OEM [dropped the ball].”
Bloomberg has directed Skip Funk, the citywide director of emergency communications, to examine why the communications and dispatching system failed.
The mayor is also restructuring Brooklyn sanitation districts after what many considered a disastrous response to the storm.
Streets went unplowed for days, particularly in the outer boroughs. Rumors of an intentional work slowdown were gaining traction as some streets remained boxed in by snowbanks and trash was still piled high on sidewalks.
Yvonne Freeman waited three hours for an ambulance before dying of respiratory complications while her daughter, Laura, watched.
“I’m dialing 911 and there’s no 911. That’s all I know how to say,” Laura Freeman said.
One woman with a broken ankle waited 30 hours for an ambulance. Another woman waiting for help gave birth to an unconscious child who was declared dead later at the hospital.
The big question of the day is why Commissioner Doherty made the changes at all after he praised the Sanitation Department’s handling of the blizzard.
“From my point of view, they get an A-plus,” he said. “From the public’s point of view, we did probably a C-minus.”
“John Doherty’s job is to, for most of the sanitation workers – I hope all, but most – who worked as hard as they could, take great pride in what they do for the city, he said that he had a great deal of respect for them by giving them that grade,” Bloomberg said. “I told you my grade for the city was ‘unsatisfactory,’ and we’re going to do better next time.”
The Department of Sanitation had already salted subway steps Thursday night in advance of Friday’s expected snowfall, and Roosevelt Island resident Ted Gandy said he trusts the City won’t go under again.
“In fact, I walked out of my office today and there was salt all over the street, like they already laid it to make sure that they don’t blow it this time, so that’s good,” Gandy said.
Now, New Yorkers are just hoping that the mayor is right, and that things really will be different this time around – but they’re not holding their breath.
“I don’t think they’ll be ready,” East Flatbush resident Prince Woodard said. “From the results of last time, I just don’t think so.”
MTA Cancels Weekend Subway Work
Due to the predicted snow, the MTA has cancelled weekend subway work. The following closures, however, remain in effect.
1: At all times until August 2011, Bronx-bound 1 trains skip Dyckman Street due to station rehabilitation. Customers may ride to 207th Street, use a free MetroCard transfer to the downtown 1 and ride back to Dyckman Street.
A: At all times until 5 a.m. January 25, 2011, Manhattan-bound A trains skip Beach 25th, Beach 44th and Beach 67th Streets due to station rehabilitations.
Q: At all times until Fall 2011, the Manhattan-bound Q platforms at Avenue M and Avenue H stations are closed for rehabilitation.