With more snow just a day away, there was new fallout today from the blizzard that tested the City’s emergency medical services. In vowing a better response this time, Mayor Bloomberg was promising something many aren’t sure they want. “You can rest assured we’re going to go out there just like we did the last time,” he said. “The public has a right to expect us to clean the streets and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
With snow looming in the forecast, those words of assurance from Mayor Bloomberg did little to ease the minds of New Yorkers, already burned from last week’s sluggish response.
“I don’t think they’ll be ready,” said Prince Woodard of East Flatbush. “From the results of last time I just don’t think so.”
“If there is snow, probably the one strike the administration got, they probably learned they used up that card,” said David Carp of the West Village.
New storm or not, officials promised all trash will be gone by the week’s end.
But heads were beginning to roll in the wake of the City’s agonizingly slow and poor response the to blizzard that dumped 20 inches on New York City.
The first casuality was Emergency Management Services Chief John Peruggia, demoted because of a disasterous backlog of 1,400 911 calls at the height of the storm. Abdo Nahmod, who has been overseeing the department’s Emergency Medical Dispatch, will take over the post from Peruggia, who held the top job for six years, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano announced.
Nahmod has supervised Emergency Medical Dispatch for three years. He started out as an ambulance company volunteer, became an emergency medical technician in 1986 and later served as Staten Island borough commander. He earned a master’s degree in homeland security studies last year.
Yvonne Freeman waited three hours for an ambulance before dying of respiratory complications while her daughter, Laura, watched. “I’m dialing 911 and there’s no 911. That’s all I know how to say,” Laura Freeman said.
One woman with a broken ankle waited 30 hours for an ambulance. Another woman waiting for help gave birth to an unconscious child who was declared dead later at the hospital.
Bloomberg has directed Skip Funk, the citywide director of emergency communications, to examine why the communications and dispatching system failed.
Also facing intense criticism were Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who was out of town when the storm hit and in charge of clearing the snow that stayed piled up for days, Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno who didn’t declare a snow emergency, and Sanitation Commissioner John Dougherty.
Days after the storm, Dougherty had this to say about his department’s response: “From my point of view we did an A+.”
Streets went unplowed for days, particularly in the outer boroughs. Rumors of an intentional work slowdown were gaining traction as some streets remained boxed in by snowbanks and trash was still piled high on sidewalks.