Reporting Pablo Guzmán
NEW YORK (AP/CBS New York) – The City rolled out a massive snow response Wednesday after Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration faced heavy criticism for its previous performance, taking advantage of lower snowfall totals in the latest storm to get streets passable by the time many New Yorkers had woken up.
Snow started falling late Tuesday and when the storm headed away from the city snow totals ranged from 12 inches in the Bronx to about 9 inches at Central Park, and about 6 inches at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports – far less than the accumulations of more than 2 feet that crippled the city over Christmas weekend and beyond. The mid-Hudson Valley and eastern Long Island bore the brunt of the latest storm, but many residents there – accustomed to weather at its worst – shouldered on.
At 5 a.m. the Department of Education announced all New York City public schools would be open, despite the snowstorm. New York City public schools have only closed 6 times since 1978 for a total of 8 lost educational days.
Many parents, it seems, decided to make the decision on their own. According to the Department of Education, attendance was way down on Wednesday. Only 46 percent of students across the city attended class, down from 89.7 percent a week ago, on a normal Wednesday.
Some schools on Long Island announced closures for Wednesday, but most appeared to be taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether students and teachers would be in class.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says New York City’s response to the latest bout of snow is very different than during the blizzard a few weeks ago. He said plows were expected to hit every street in the city at least once by midday.
Bloomberg said the city’s goal was the most effective snow response ever. He said the decision to declare a city weather emergency got cars off the road. That meant overnight traffic was lighter than usual. Plow drivers didn’t have to worry about stuck cars and buses when they were trying to clear the streets.
“Our goal for this storm was not merely to get back to business as usual,” Bloomberg said. “Our goal was to deploy a more effective snow response operation than ever, more aggressive and more accountable, based on the lessons that we learned in the last storm and that’s what we’ve done.”
In many of the neighborhoods that were hit hardest by the blizzard, the mayor’s attempt at turning things in his favor still did not go that well, reports CBS 2′s Pablo Guzman.
“First off, I think he should have been here,” Jim Briganti, of Middle Village, said. “I know he’s entitled to a private life, but I really fee he should have been here, knowing what was coming.”
In Park Slope, an area paralyzed by last month’s storm, all major and side streets were plowed by Wednesday morning. It was business as usual. Glum-looking high school students trudged to school on slushy sidewalks, while ambulette driver Yuri Arutyunyan cleared ice from the grill of his van outside New York Methodist Hospital.
“The snow was this deep,” he said, pointing to a spot above his knee. “This time, only this deep,” he added, pointing at his ankle.
The Queens borough president’s office says the borough is in much better shape than it was after the post-Christmas blizzard. Spokesman Dan Andrews says it was still awaiting a full report but so far has received no complaints about unplowed streets. The average snowfall in the borough on Wednesday was 9 inches. Last time, some parts got as much as 22 inches and many areas went unplowed for days.
This time around, Andrews says, some residents reported hearing plows all through the night and blacktop was visible on some of the borough’s major highways by the morning rush.
The city stood ready Wednesday with more than 300 salt spreaders, 1,700 plows, and 200 front-end loaders, backhoes and Bobcats. Sanitation workers were on 12-hour shifts.
“They were prepared – they knew better,” said Crown Heights resident Malcolm Hall. “They weren’t going to mess up again, I think.”
Teams of observers in SUVs have been trolling the city with video cameras to monitor street conditions as part of a new initiative launched last week. The live video feed is accessible at the city’s emergency operations center and can also be viewed by the mayor and other top officials on their iPads.
The snow made Wednesday morning’s rush hour a bit complicated for some commuters. The Long Island Rail Road, suspended some service to prevent trains from becoming snowbound and canceled 23 rush hour trains Wednesday morning. Amtrak suspended service between New York City and Boston because of damage to the overhead power system south of Boston.
Airports across the region canceled flights, but nothing was expected to match the problems produced by the post-Christmas storm, which stranded thousands of travelers just as they headed home after the holiday. LaGuardia Airport canceled 675 flights, Kennedy Airport 300 and Newark Liberty 440.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)