After defending against critics who claimed certain parts of the city were snubbed by snow plows, the Mayor says more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side. Michael George reports
Mayor de Blasio admitted late Wednesday after visiting snow-covered streets on the Upper East Side that "more could have been done" there, and ordered crews to "double down" on cleanup.
De Blasio said in a statement, after initially defending his administration's storm response, that he had personally inspected the area hours after the storm was gone and found the conditions in the Manhattan neighborhood to be unsatisfactory.
"While the overall storm response across the city was well-executed, after inspecting the area and listening to concerns from residents earlier today, I determined more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side," he said.
De Blasio said extra crews and workers were sent to the area to "finish the cleanup."
"Our crews will remain on the streets around the clock until the roadways are clear in every neighborhood, in every borough, across New York City," he said.
Earlier in the day, the mayor said the storm, which dumped nearly a foot of snow in Manhattan and more in most of the outer boroughs, caused a worse-than-expected headache when it ramped up at rush hour Tuesday evening.
"We had a coordinated, intense, citywide response," de Blasio said.
The mayor and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said at first that the cleanup effort had been equitable and robust, though complicated by traffic and the storm's timetable. Those factors made it difficult to plow and spread salt, Doherty said. The wind and snow were so blinding that police pulled traffic agents out of many intersections.
De Blasio, a Brooklyn resident who campaigned on closing gaps between rich and poor city residents, also was asked why some Manhattan avenues, including on the Upper East Side, still were covered in snow when a Brooklyn thoroughfare was plowed clear to the pavement.
"No one was treated differently," the mayor said Wednesday morning.
At midday Wednesday, NBC 4 New York cameras captured cabs spinning out on Park Avenue, which had been plowed but was still covered with snow.
New Yorkers walked carefully on some of the snowier streets Wednesday, but some couldn't avoid slips and falls.
One woman on Park Avenue gave the city a failing grade.
"Not a good job," she said.
The plowing problems combined with a late-night decision to keep open the nation's largest public schools system also had some parents grumbling.
The Department of Education said the citywide attendance rate was 47.1 percent Wednesday, compared with a typical day's rate of 90 percent.
One parent, Pamela Murphy Jennings, said her two children navigated snowy sections of Madison and Park avenues to get to their public schools on the Upper East Side.
"Children have to walk to city bus stops and cross these streets to get here," she said. "Cars are sliding on roads. If there was any day to close schools, this was the day."
De Blasio said officials made the right call in anticipating that streets would be passable enough for students to get to school safely, adding that his own teenage son had gone, if grouchily.
Officials insisted that 100 percent of the city's primary streets were plowed by 6 a.m. Wednesday, along with 90 percent or more of other streets.
Some residents were understanding. Upper East Sider Lou Riccio agreed cleanup was a problem in his neighborhood, but he didn't see it as the mayor's fault.
"It was just the problem of a bad snowstorm coming at a bad time of the day," said Riccio, who teaches public affairs at Columbia University.