With a significant snowstorm arriving in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared a weather emergency earlier this evening that will last well into Wednesday.
The mayor’s office is urging the public to avoid all unnecessary driving during the duration of the storm and until further directed, and to use public transportation whenever possible. If you must drive, use extreme caution.
Any vehicle found to be blocking roadways or impeding the ability to plow streets shall be subject to towing at the owner’s expense.
Effective immediately, alternate side parking, payment at parking meters and garbage collections are suspended citywide until further notice.
The Emergency Management, Fire, Police, Sanitation, and Transportation Commissioners will be taking all appropriate and necessary steps to preserve public safety and to render all required and available assistance to protect the security, well-being and health of the residents of the City.
Plows and salt are the name of the game, and they’ll be needed based on the mayor’s predictions, reports CBS 2′s John Slattery.
“What we sure know is that tomorrow morning’s commute is not going to be easy, and I would assume that tomorrow night’s is not going to be easy either,” Bloomberg said.
Today, the mayor apologized for the first time for the city’s dismal response to the Dec. 26 storm that dumped as much as 29 inches of snow on parts of the city.
“Keep in mind, for nine years, 70-odd snowstorms, things worked very well,” he said. “They didn’t work anywhere near what we would want [for the blizzard], and for that I apologize to the people. It was not done deliberately, and what we have to do is not look back – we have to learn and go forward, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The mayor said he is acutely aware that the city has to do better, because he knows what New Yorkers think of the last effort.
“We do know that we didn’t do the job that New Yorkers rightly expect of us in the last storm and we intend to make sure that that does not happen again,” Bloomberg said.
Mistakes have been admitted, problems identified and solutions pieced together. In a frantic effort to avoid another chaotic and dangerous situation, the mayor and top agencies released a 15-point action plan to combat future storms, including the one expected to hit tonight.
The plan includes establishing a more formal process for declaring snow emergencies, equipping every sanitation truck with a two-way GPS device, sending scout teams on the roads to stream live video of trouble spots – reminiscent of CBS 2′s Mobile2 – and equipping ambulances with snow chains and sled-like devices to carry patients through the snow.
He said sanitation crews will be on 12-hour shifts and 365 salt spreaders, along with 1,700 plows, are ready to go. In addition, the city has arranged for 200 private contractors to help with the snow removal.
The sanitation equipment was also being prepositioned on designated routes to prepare for work once snow removal operations begin. Laborers who will help shovel intersections have already been hired.
Some buses have already been outfitted with chains, as have been ambulances, which haven’t used chains in years because of concern that they would damage the vehicles.
The plan comes as the city faces a $2.4 billion deficit, but on Tuesday Bloomberg sounded like a generous billionaire.
“We’re going to spend the money, and then figure out where the money comes from,” he said.
Bloomberg also announced that the city will make a decision at 5 a.m. Wednesday on whether to close city public schools.
During an intense grill session on Monday, Council members pelted the deputy mayor and commissioners for sanitation, fire and the Office of Emergency Management, making clear they felt the fallout from the last storm started at the top.
“I think you and the mayor are responsible for what happened. You and the mayor should be under investigation,” said Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron.
“The mayor did not have the information he deserved. It was fragmented. It wasn’t distributed. It wasn’t coordinated,” Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith apologized to the city and the council for the many failures, including not briefing the mayor adequately at the start. The cleanup has damaged Bloomberg’s reputation as a no-nonsense manager.
Officials recounted an extensive list of errors, beginning when commissioners considered calling a snow emergency, but ultimately did not.
The first snowfall this winter came Dec. 26 at the tail end of a holiday weekend, dropping 29 inches of snow in Staten Island, 2 feet in Brooklyn and 20 inches in Central Park.