Council Speaker Calls MTA Blizzard Response "Ridiculous"

Now it's transit officials'' turn on the hot seat

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 30: MTA Chairman Jay Walder attends the Grand Central holiday laser light show at Grand Central Terminal on November 30, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jay Walder

    First it was the mayor's team in the hot seat over last month's blizzard. Now it's the MTA.

    City Council Speaker Christine Quinn made sure of that Friday morning, lashing out at transit officials for not opening a command center during the monster Christmas weekend storm.

    "Ridiculous!" Quinn said during a tense exchange with New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast.

    "Snow happens in New York,"  she said.  "This is not a natural disaster that we can't anticipate."

    The City Council is grilling transit officials about stranded subways and other problems during the blizzard.  It's the second in a series of public hearings about the blizzard response and the MTA has already made some changes ahead of the Friday session.

    City council members specifically want to know why the MTA continued to send out buses even after hundreds of them became stranded in the snow during the blizzard.

    They also have questions about the communication between MTA officials and the city during the storm and why the MTA waited more than 19 hours after the blizzard warning took effect before activating their emergency plan.

    Previously, MTA chief Jay Walder acknowledged his agency could have done better.

    "The bottom line is we need to be faster to react when forecasts change and I think we now have a process in place to facilitate faster action," Walder said. "In the unlikely event that we do have a situation with customers stuck on a train for an extended period, we have new plans in place to ensure we communicate  with customers and provide them with every support we can."

    Much of the criticism stems from the fact a horde of straphangers was stuck on an A train in Queens for seven hours because of the blizzard.

    "Generally around an hour people become agitated if they don't believe somebody is acting in their interest and trying to rescue them and get them  home, so that's just a time frame that we need to look at," Walder had said. "But even when those instances occur, we need to evaluate what the conditions are outside because in some cases ... it's safer in that train than it is to have them go outside."

    The MTA said for future storms, it would also consider shutting down parts of or even entire stretches of service on lines like the B and Q that move outside.