NYC officials delayed declaring snowstorm an emergency

Waiting too late to declare a snow emergency is probably the biggest error done by the Bloomberg administration in New York City, one that led to all manner of disaster. According to the New York Times, city officials underestimated the impact of the storm on the city and decided against issuing an order that would have pulled cars from specially designated “snow emergency” routes that could have ensured easy access to plows. The weather report, despite claims by officials, was severe enough to warrant the move:

At 3:55 p.m. on Saturday, the Weather Service issued a blizzard warning, forecasting 11 to 16 inches of snow, with higher amounts in some areas. It warned that strong winds would cause “considerable blowing and drifting of snow” that could take down power lines and tree limbs.

Eleven to 16 inches of snow isn't a light dusting — and it may not mean life or death either — but that's the level of snow that means the city needs to take action in planning. Instead, Bloomberg and company decided to address it with some wishful thinking. A spokesman for the transportation comissioner said, “As of about 5 p.m. on Christmas Day, … the forecast called for about a foot of accumulation, which is not uncommon and which is not a basis for a snow emergency declaration.”

Was it this guy's first winter in New York? A foot of snow is a foot of snow, and plows need to get through the city. How else was it going to happen?

Both current and former city officials had difficulty recalling how many times such an emergency had been declared. One current official said the last one had been declared in 2003.

Still, Mr. Hauer [a former Giuliani adviser for such emergencies] asserted, “if they said we were getting a blizzard, it was kind of a no-brainer.”

But the Bloomberg administration decided not to call a snow emergency. One city official briefed on the response to the storm said it was explicitly considered. But ultimately [sanitation commissioner] Mr. Doherty and [transportation comissioner] Ms. Sadik-Khan decided against it, said Seth Solomonow, a spokesman for Ms. Sadik-Khan.

Already, some officials are suggesting that budget cuts and a lack of equipment really is to blame for the slip-up, which sounds a lot like, “We screwed up, give us more money.” Adequate planning would have dodged this disaster, however, and there is no price tag for that on the mayoral level. At the moment, Bloomberg's one dollar salary has given New Yorker's exactly what they've paid for.

 

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