As winter storms buffet New York City, Mayor de Blasio beefs up snow battle plan
Adds police surveillance cameras, earlier plowing, more communication
With five to eight inches of snow on the ground in New York City on Monday and yet another winter storm on the way, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is upping its game to clear the streets as soon as humanly possible.
At a press conference in City Hall’s Blue Room, De Blasio said his administration had learned several lessons from the last big storm, including taking into account their “unpredictable dynamics.”
After being fooled by the last big snow, De Blasio said he would take weather predictions with a grain of salt in the future. “Six p.m. can turn into five p.m., 10 inches can turn into 15 inches.” He said the city would “pull back” from trash collection and recycling earlier to have time to retrofit snowplows, and was adding the NYPD’s surveillance cameras to the city’s preparedness arsenal.
“Interagency cooperation will help deal with these storms,” he said. “We’re also finding better ways to communicate. We’re talking to people on the ground, something the previous administration didn’t do. We’re reaching out on social media and traditional media as well, to foster a better feedback loop.”
“We started monitoring police cameras at midnight,” Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said. “There’s an opportunity here for us to see stuff that we normally don’t see on the department transportation cameras we get. It’s still a learning process. What we’re trying to do with them now is overlap our network of primary, secondary, and tertiary streets with the Police Department so that we can figure out exactly where the cameras are.” He added, “It does give us another set of eyes out there.”
The Sanitation Department plows primary streets first and foremost for safety reason, the Mayor said. These streets are marked in red in the PlowNYC website, where residents can see the status of snow plowing on their streets.
All 2,000 sanitation workers were on duty on Monday,” he said. “Today I’m putting everything on the table.”
Early on Monday, the Mayor said, complaints came in about snow-covered streets in the West Brighton section of Staten Island. Commissioner Doherty told reporters, “A lot of energy in the first hours of the storm went to the primary roads. Clearly, in many parts of our city, people are concerned about secondary and tertiary roads. I don’t blame them.”
Williamsburg resident Kate Monitor told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday that she had seen two cars skid during her early morning jog. “I felt afraid to be on the B62 bus,” traveling from Williamsburg to Downtown Brooklyn, she said. “After seeing cars skid you wonder if you made the right decision to get on.” Nonetheless, she made it safely to Downtown Brooklyn, where the primary street Cadman Plaza West was continuously plowed and clear of snow.
Monday’s storm was the third major snowstorm of the new Mayor’s administration, and the National Weather Service has issued another winter weather watch for the early hours of Wednesday morning. Snow and sleet will cover the streets after midnight, changing to freezing rain by rush hour.
“Thank God the storm waited until after the Super Bowl,” Mayor de Blasio said. “I’m sorry about the storm today, but it’s good we got the Super Bowl done before it hit.” He complimented city agencies for handling the big game’s added pressures “in exemplary fashion.”
While the de Blasio administration received high marks for handling the first major storm of his tenure, he was hit with complaints during the second, when some Upper East Side and Staten Island roads appeared to be unplowed for hours after the snowfall. De Blasio personally visited the Upper East Side after the last storm and ordered the Sanitation Department to clean up the mess.
On Monday, de Blasio said he would continue to monitor complaints. “It’s not about regrets, it’s about assuring people we are hearing their concerns and acting on them. If I hear too many complaints about a particular area, there’s a good chance I’m coming to look at it,” he said.
New Yorkers have to be a bit realistic about snow as well, he added. “There are 6,300 miles of streets, enough to stretch to L.A. and back.” In response to a reporter’s question, he joked, “Snow happens – is that your phrase? This morning I was shoveling in front of my house. Normally, people like to see their street as [clear] as possible. But there’s only so much equipment,” he said. “The primary streets have to be cleared first for public safety.
“I don’t expect fellow New Yorkers to be patient,” he added. “They have every right to expect us to do it as efficiently as possible and communicate as best as possible. Clearly the last time we didn’t, and the time before we did.”
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