City Council Blasts NYC Commissioners Over Blizzard Snafu

Bloomberg Not At Hearing; Deputy Mayor Gets An Earful

NEW YORK (CBS New York/AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration said Monday that its decision not to call a snow emergency during the post-Christmas blizzard might not have been the right call, and that the poor cleanup was exacerbated by a lack of ways to communicate with plow drivers on the streets.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports on the meeting and council members’ frustrations

The City Council held a hearing to examine the city’s cleanup efforts for the Dec. 26 storm, which dumped more than 2 feet of snow in parts of the city.

PHOTO GALLERIES: Blizzard Slams East Coast | User-Submitted Pictures

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports on the City Council hearing for blizzard response.

Streets went unplowed, ambulances became stuck while responding to emergencies, and trash has piled up ever since.

The hearings made it crystal clear — the city’s response to the blizzard was too little, too late, and key decisions were simply not made by city leaders on autopilot. The same city leaders who on Monday, under intense grilling, said they were sorry, reports CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.

The City Council members’ emotions ranged from amazed to incredulous to irate.

“We felt completely abandoned,” said Councilman James Sanders Jr. of Queens.

There was no sign of Mayor Bloomberg. Instead, on the hot seat were the deputy mayor and commissioners for fire, OEM and sanitation. They were grilled by council members who made it clear they felt the problem starting at the top.

“The investigation of the sanitation workers is a scapegoat. Just as the firing of the EMS chief is a scapegoat,” said Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn.

“I think you and the mayor are responsible for what happened. You and the mayor should be under investigation, seriously, because the death that occurred could have been avoided.”

Barron hurled accusations at Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, the administration’s point man at the hearing, to which Goldsmith responded: “I appreciate the depth of your opinion, and I, obviously, categorically disagree.”

Goldsmith apologized for the way the city handled the blizzard and admitted numerous mistakes, including the failure to call a snow emergency and that there was a breakdown in communication that left the mayor in the dark.

“The mayor did not have the information he deserved. It was fragmented. It wasn’t distributed. It wasn’t coordinated. It wasn’t properly presented in a way that would have given him the true picture of the situation,” Goldsmith said.

Commissioners were sufficiently prepped to answer the tough questions because they got the questions in advance.

The only one who has lost his job so far is the EMS chief.

“Why was only one person demoted?” Jumaane Williams asked.

Goldsmith was then asked how the EMS chief lost his job and he kept his.

“All of us are eager to be accountable to the public and we are continuing to evaluate this situation,” Goldsmith said.

The city did not declare an emergency during the storm, Goldsmith said, because of the belief that it would cause more traffic problems at the end of the holiday weekend.

But the administration now believes an emergency declaration might have kept more drivers off the road and triggered a more urgent response among city agencies and other authorities that use the declarations for guidance.

“Given the information available at the time, the decision not to declare an emergency was understandable,” Goldsmith said. “However, based on what we know now, an emergency declaration could have yielded a more successful response.”

Goldsmith also said the city lacks decent methods to communicate with plow drivers in the field. That leads to the emergency command centers not having a good understanding of which streets are plowed and which ones are blocked by obstacles.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the storm “brought New York City to its knees.”

“We’re here today to determine what went wrong,” she said.

Bloomberg’s commissioners outlined several improvements the city is planning or has begun. Those include creating formal protocol for considering snow emergencies and testing out a new type of snow chains for ambulances.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said the city stopped using chains on ambulances 15 years ago, because many vehicles in the fleet were damaged repeatedly when chains broke off. More than 100 ambulances became stuck in the snow during the holiday storm, and many New Yorkers who needed urgent medical care did not get it right away.

The sanitation department is also equipping every truck with global positioning devices, which have two-way communications that plow workers can use to better report to emergency commanders the status of roads.

The city also said it is streamlining the process for deploying equipment like tow trucks, as well as improving its abilities to quickly hire private contractors for towing, plowing and hauling.

Further, officials said the city will create an online portal with winter weather information, a site where New Yorkers will be able to post photos and video, increasing the real-time information available to commanders about the cleanup.

More from Marla Diamond
  • aldous huxley

    Told ya so !!!!

    This issue was SO unimportant to Bloomberg that he did not even attend.

    Michael views NYC and the people the same way someone looks at an anthill just before they step on it.

    • vinnie


      • DeltaForce

        MIkey is in China on “official” NYC (monkey) business promoting the pretty Big (Snowy White) Apple (Times Square after the Blizzard)

  • Sarah

    Did you see the street sweepers out today? They were just driving down the middle of the road because they couldn’t get to the sides due to the snow, trash, trees, and cars! So, why were they out? Nice waste of money there! They just kept pushing the dust, sand, salt, and black snow around the street!

  • The Truth

    What a joke. The first to go should been Money Bags Mike and that Drunk Doherty! EMS Chief was a sacrificial lamb but I am sure he got his lottery ticket too called a Pension. In my area one of the women saw the salt truck parked and the sanitation workers hanging out in McDonalds for up to 3 hours. Fck the Union Gang and fire those who took part in the slowdown. Those welfare employees better wake up and remember they are expendable. During the upcoming storm you can bet they are gonna be all out there to squash the incident they caused the first time around. Do not forget or these bums will be off the hook. Remember they caused the death of at least two people. If they call in sick fire them on the spot.



    • Vincent LoRe

      You are 100% right on target!

  • life is good

    The Bloomberg Administration NEVER punishes upper level appointed city officials for their dereliction of duty, failure to supervise, etc. They ALWAYS go after lower level folks who did their jobs and are held accountable for the failure of the mayor and his staff,

    Bloomberg & Goldsmith should be sent ‘packing’ ASAP. They present a constant threat to public safety with their poor decision making. Running a city is not a job that can be handled by arrogant, out of touch, too wealthy CEO’s.

  • Tim

    Fire Goldsmith now before the next snow flake falls. It’s the least they can do. It’s a shame that we can’t fire the one who’s truly responsible, and that’s that ugly little midget Bloomberg. He bought the last election because he knew everyone hated his unbridled ignorance/ arrogance. Now after this incident which caused the deaths of at lest two individuals that I read about, he demotes the EMS chief!? What a sorry joke,I can’t think of a more pathetic gesture in the face of a crisis like this. It’s as bad as that loser Doherty having the audacity to give the Sanitation department an A minus for the clean up effort. Try telling that to people who couldn’t leave their own blocks for days, or the ones who had their vehicles destroyed by Sanitation bull dozers! It’s a disgrace that any of them should collect the already outrageous sums they get from this city for such a terrible job performance.

  • Jason

    Today Monday, I saw sand trucks driving around like a chicken without a head. WTH do we need sand for 10 days after the blizzard? Is NYC trying to use all its sand before tomorrow’s storm so they can blame the poor results next time on budget cuts??

  • Alex

    So, Goldsmith, Bruno and Doherty are still in place. You not able to think about velocity and improvement with the same old violating arrogant horses. In order to improve at least something in front of a new blizzard which by the way is expecting on Wednesday/Thursday, these guys must be fired. Not kept, not promoted-just fired with the appropriate announcement.

  • kkkkkkkkkkkk

    This was intentionally created to contract out snow clean up/towing and lot of other jobs. So that the politician can make more money under the table!!!!!!!!!!!

    • KPMc

      Sooo… the workers willingly complied with a slowdown they not only didn’t support but which will eventually lead to their replacement?

      Not likely… more likely they are lazy, arrogant POS who think they have the city by the short hairs because we don’t want snow or garbage around.

      Hmmnnn… maybe contracting out isn’t such a bad idea if thousands of public employees can’t be trusted to do their jobs properly.

      Reap what you sow!

  • LOL over this

    English!!! Den English!!! Common comrade you’re in America now, not Siberia.

    • Stan

      DEN Said …..In Russia, almost all winter so.
      Shovel and a chainsaw in the trunk of a car all year round vozish, otherwise you can not get to their seats.

  • Devenio

    “Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration said Monday that its decision not to call a snow emergency during the post-Christmas blizzard might not have been the right call,” Might not? Wow. Did not one person in this Administration look out the blasted window during the storm or did they all thing that NYC only consisted of Manhattan?

  • Josh

    Both Bloomberg & Goldsmith were OUT OF TOWN!!! A great manager can still get poor results if they have no vision and then take no responsibility for their errors. Goldsmith is an embarrassment and Bloomberg is an arrogant, condescending, lying politician. 2013 can’t come soon enough.

  • HP

    Where was Stephen Goldmith during this blizzard?

  • den

    В России почти всю зиму так.
    Лопату и бензопилу в багажнике автомобиля круглый год возишь, иначе можно и не доехать до места. :-D

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