A contrite Mayor Bloomberg regretted the sluggish pace of snow removal and admitted that he was "extremely dissatisfied" with the city's emergency response -- but he refused to give reasons or place blame.
"We did not do as good a job that we wanted to do or the city has a right to expect," he said at a briefing in the South Bronx Wednesday afternoon.
While he also announced "steady progress" in finally clearing the streets, his Sanitation Commissioner warned that it would take until 7 p.m. Wednesday, or even 7 a.m. Thursday, before plows reached every block.
On the third day after a monster storm dumped more than two feet of snow on the hardest hit parts of the city, thousands remain marooned on icy, unplowed streets. The blizzard is also being blamed for a still birth in Crown Heights Monday after a dispatcher categorized a woman's labor pains as a lower priority and then ambulances had trouble reaching her.
"Your heart has to go out to anybody who has lost a loved one," said Bloomberg when asked about deaths attributed to the storm.
More than 48 hours after the snow stopped, many in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island remain stranded, officials said. Plows have worked on 99 % of primary streets, 86% of secondary one and 66% of tertiary roads, Bloomberg said, but extensive swaths of the outer boroughs remain buried.
"We got 29 inches of snow, where the heck are the plows?" asked Elizabeth McDaniel of the Great Kills section of Staten Island. "We are stranded on Highland Road with many elderly people."
After widespread stoppages, city subway service was almost back to normal with the N train and the Franklin Avenue shuttle the only lines still out, said MTA Chairman Jay Walder.
Bloomberg defended Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty as "the best," saying his agency had the same amount of plows and people deployed as in past storms but the formula didn't work as well this time, the mayor said.
"The question is why?" the mayor said, but then declined to answer it. Instead, he said he was designating a top aide, Skip Funk, director of the office of citywide emergency communication, to find answers in a future thorough review.
And Bloomberg promised "we will not rest until every street in this city is cleared as it should be."
Bloomberg's soothing tone ended only when asked about blistering criticism from other officials, saying politics don't belong in this situation and that maybe "they don't' have enough to do."
The city council is holding a hearing on the snow response January 10.
MASS TRANSIT WOES
Bus service in some parts of the city is still hampered by unplowed streets. The B and the Q subway lines remain suspended and the N line isn't running in parts of Brooklyn.
The Staten Island Railway is running limited service between St. George and Tottenville every 30 minutes Buses are still experiencing problems in all five boroughs, especially in neighborhoods with snow-filled hilly streets. Check New York City Transit for updates.
The Long Island Rail Road has service on seven of its 11 branches. It says buses are replacing train service east of Ronkonkoma on the main line and east of Speonk on the Montauk branch. Metro-North is operating a weekday schedule on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines. Both railroads say all service is subject to equipment and weather-related delays. Check the LIRR for updates.
Most New Jersey Transit lines didn't have warnings about widespread delays. And New Jersey Transit buses were running across the state, though delays were expected in the central and northern parts of the state where snows were heaviest.
Thousands of cold, hungry and tired air passengers are stranded at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty Airports after more than 5,000 flights were canceled at our area's three major airports. Officials said they were provided blankets and cots, but some travelers were not allowed to retrieve their checked luggage, leaving them with no extra clothing or toiletries.
Officials warned it could take until New Year's to rebook all passengers and straighten out the transportation mess created by the storm, which shut down all three of New York's major airports for 24 hours and caused a ripple effect across the U.S. Check for JFK, LaGuardia and Newark updates.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CITY'S RESPONSE
Some New Yorkers in the outer boroughs are complaining that the city took too long to plow their neighborhoods, ignoring them in favor of wealthier Manhattan areas. City officials said that some side streets might not be cleared until well into Tuesday.
State Senator Carl Kruger blasted the city's response, saying part of Mill Basin and Mahattan Beach were not plowed even once by Monday evening.
"It is unconscionable," Kruger told NBC New York. "It has to be addressed. There has to be some reason given....When the Fire Department asks to declare a state of emergency and the OEM denies that request, then there is something wrong."
Officials said crews were concentrating on main roadways and warned that side streets might not be cleared until Tuesday.
For the record, the city deployed 1,600 plows for a snowstorm that delivered 20.9 inches in February, as measured in Central Park. For this latest winter blast - which dropped 20 inches - 1,700 plows, plus 365 salt spreaders that were converted into plows, were working on the streets.
Fire officials said the unplowed roads were slowing their responses to emergencies, and snowbound residents in Brooklyn and Queens said many streets, including main thoroughfares, were impossible to traverse, making it difficult to get to work.
The storm wasn't just remarkable because of the amount of snow that fell, but also because of a phenomenon called "thundersnow," or a combination of thunder, lightening and snow. New York hadn't seen a thundersnow in decades, meteorologists said.
DANGER ON THE ROADS
In Monmouth County, N.J., snow drifts of up to five feet contributed to stalling a passenger bus on the Garden State Parkway, where snow plows were having a difficult time cleaning because there were so many stranded cars cluttering the ramps, state police spokesman Steve Jones said. Ambulances couldn't reach the bus, and state troopers took their own water and food to the bus to give to people who were feeling ill, he said.
The state police's superintendent, Col. Rick Fuentes, toured parts of the state in a four-wheel-drive vehicle to assess the conditions of the roadways and pleaded with people to stay home. Jones described the conditions, particularly in the East Orange area, as "terrible" and said they were causing safety hazards.
Officials begged motorists not to go out. Many didn't. But those who did found the treacherous roads to be slow-going — or worse.
Raquel and Amir Dayan had to get help digging out after ending up in a median along Interstate-195 as they attempted to travel from their home in Philadelphia to her parents' place in Oakcrest. The falling snow was so blinding the couple didn't realize they'd left the road at first.
"You couldn't see anything. We just kind of stopped moving," Raquel Dayan said.