The City's Failures
January 10th, 2011

Gotham Gazette’s Courtney Gross is at the Emigrant Savings Bank where the hearing on the city’s response to the Dec. 26 blizzard is taking place. She files this post.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith told the City Council this morning the city failed in six areas during the Boxing Day blizzard that crippled the five boroughs for several days.

Goldsmith apologized for the city’s unacceptable response and promised the council and the public it would not happen again.

The holiday weekend, the rate of snowfall (two inches per hour) and the many vehicles in the streets made the blizzard more difficult than other storms, Goldsmith said. But, he added, the city failed to adequately prepare regardless of the snow circumstances.

“This administration is built on accountability,” Goldsmith said. “As deputy mayor of operations, I take this responsibility very seriously.”

Most importantly, the city failed to call a snow emergency, the deputy mayor said. If that decision was made, he added, it could have acted as a catalyst for other agency action.

The city also failed to use its resources or “accountability tools,” Goldsmith said. The Department of Sanitation doesn’t have the ability to track plowing as it happens. It only assesses progress after snow has stopped and then only every 14 hours, the deputy mayor said.

On top of that, Goldsmith said, the city failed to sufficiently deploy city assets, like tow trucks. It also failed to take sufficient advantage of private resources, both heavy equipment and day laborers.

Coming as no surprise, Goldsmith said the city failed to communicate, both between its own agencies and to the public. Only 50 percent of sanitation trucks have radios, said Goldsmith, and those that do only operate on one channel. That channel was overwhelmed on Boxing Day. Goldsmith also cited emergency communications as an area in which the city failed.

Goldsmith rejected the idea that sanitation was understaffed during the storm (it just trained a new class of 100 workers, he said). The shift of some supervisors, Goldsmith said, had not been implemented during the storm. That shift is meant to put more workers of the ground not less, he said.

Ultimately, Goldsmith said he relied on the judgment of Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty during the storm.

Goldsmith said he would reveal a 15-point plan to prevent this type of response in the future. He will do that later in his testimony today.

More to come later.

By on January 10, 2011, 12:19 pm
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