The NYC Blizzard of 2010: Mayor Bloomberg’s Colossal Failure

About ten days before the nasty blizzard that walloped New York City and brought it to its knees, the national weather service and several news agencies predicted that the City would be receiving at least a foot of snow. This blizzard was not a surprise to anyone.  It didn’t come sneaking in the middle of the night under the radar like a stealth ninja.

In places like upstate New York, like Syracuse, Rochester, or Buffalo, blizzard conditions would not have been necessarily front page news for the government, because they have the systems in place to deal with such a weather contingency.  But one foot of snow in upstate New York is a lot of different than one foot of snow in New York City.  For starters, New York City requires much more preparation and planning to galvanize its workers to ensure that the snow is cleared by the plows, both because of the City’s size, as well as the simple fact that heavy snow is not part of the usual NYC winter landscape.

Given all this, at first it was hard to understand why the City was so thoroughly unprepared by the blizzard.  The arguments that were put forward by the City, as well as outlined by many major media outlets, centered around after-the-fact arguments that did nothing to explain why the government was unprepared — thoroughly unprepared — by the blizzard.  These two arguments generally revolved around: 1) there were too many cars stuck in the road for clean up crews and 2) there was a huge fire in Queens.

Within two days of the storm, the estimates quickly went from a foot to as much as 16 inches. This should have clearly moved whatever myopia was over Mayor Bloomberg’s cash infested upper east side loving brain.   But it didn’t.  Instead, Bloomberg decided to do the business as usual plan: mobilize the efforts a few hours after the snow began falling.

That works when you have unsustained snow totaling no more than two or three inches — which is considered usually a “heavy” snowfall for New York City.  When you’re dealing with snowfalls greater than a foot, you can’t start the cleanup after the snow begins falling, because a) it’s falling fast and b) the potential for vehicles not part of the cleanup crew to block the streets increases.  That is why some cities close certain roads to ensure that the cleanup effort is not hampered.  To be sure, the City did recommend  that non-essential driving be kept to a minimum — but it did so only the next morning, when no one in the outer-boroughs could drive anywhere anyway.

It is thus no surprise that the City was and still is a damn mess.  Roads are still unplowed.  Buses are still stuck in the middle of the road.  Trains are not functioning.  People can’t get to work.  The City is still at a standstill.  And the sad fact is that it’s going to be like that for a little while.  To be clear,  when I say the City, I should mention that I’m defining it as the outer-boroughs and parts of Manhattan that do not include the upper east side.  Because to Bloomberg, it seems that the only part of the City that matters to him is the upper east side.  And everything else falls to the wayside in proportion to how far you are away from East 79th Street.

The outer-boroughs look like something from Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”  I know people who can’t get to dialysis because they’re plowed in and can’t either take a taxi or bus to the clinic.  You would not see this on the upper east side.  Their roads will be clear and then wonder why everyone else is complaining.  They say, “If only people were self-reliant.”

In fact, in the throes of the storm, the one place where you could really drive a car, even if you had a Toyota Prius, was on the upper east side.  Bloomberg, for his part, was his testy little Kim Jong-Il self when, in response to criticisms of his leadership (or lack of it more precisely) during the blizzard, he stated, “There’s no reason for everybody to panic.  Our city is doing exactly what you’d want it to do.”

Really, Mr. Bloomberg?  You are completely out of touch.