New Yorkers endured a crippled transit system, completely overwhelmed emergency responders and unpassable roadways yesterday after one of the city's worst blizzards ever dumped a staggering 20 inches of snow.
Abandoned vehicles and buses littered highways and main drags -- and ambulances couldn't make it out to calls that stacked up well past 1,000 at one point. Virtually all modes of transportation -- from air travel to the subways -- left people stranded.
"A lot of snow everyplace. It was a very heavy snowfall, and, as you know, it was accompanied by intense winds," Mayor Bloomberg said.
Still, he tried to convince the public all was well, despite the city's $20 million snow-removal bill.
"This city is going on. It's a day like every other day," Bloomberg said, suggesting people go out and shop or take in a Broadway show. "There's no reason [for] everybody to panic."
Anyone who spent time outside would disagree.
The storm, which began pummeling the area Sunday morning, didn't let up until early yesterday. Howling winds created mountains of snow in streets, on sidewalks and along elevated subway lines.
With stranded cars blocking roadways and resources spread thin, the FDNY at one point had a 1,400-call backlog.
One FDNY unit was delayed for 14 minutes while trying to reach a five-alarm fire in Elmhurst, Queens, said Al Hagan, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens) last night posted a message to the mayor on his Facebook page:
"Our hospitals are short-staffed, and our streets are impassable. Our side streets haven't seen one plow ALL DAY. Stop telling Manhattan to go see a Broadway play, and get the outer boros plowed, NOW!! Then give us the full explanation we deserve as to why we were forgotten."
Virtually every line in the subway system experienced either delays or shutdowns for the morning rush, leaving untold thousands of furious commuters scrambling for a way to work.
The problems included elevated platforms covered in snow that drifted well over two feet in certain areas, like Astoria, Queens.
The worst of the subway problems came overnight Sunday at the height of the storm as an A train bound for the Rockaways got stuck for nearly seven hours near Kennedy Airport.
"Ultimately, we did get people to Euclid Avenue," MTA Chairman Jay Walder said, explaining that a diesel locomotive had been dug out at the yard and sent to push the dead train.
"We still don't have service to the Rockaways, and I don't know when we'll have that back," Walder said.
Around the city and in Nassau County, stranded buses were the hallmark of the blizzard. At one point yesterday, nearly 1,029 buses were trapped in snow and ice in the five boroughs -- nearly a quarter of the system's total fleet.
It's not the near paralysis of the city one day after 20 inches of snow fell that is as disturbing as the mayor's inability to see there is a problem with the response of the city to digging out of it.
One quarter of the buses were stuck in snow.
Ambulance times were delayed dangerously.
And the FDNY had a backlog of 1,400 calls.
The outerborough streets never saw a plow all day.
That is a city that is no longer working.
Yet Bloomberg made like all was well, talking about how tourists were going shopping and the Broadway theaters were all full.
That obviously is not sitting well with many New Yorkers today.
Even the Post editorial writers, usually the most loyal of Bloomberg shills, took Bloomberg to task for the nightmare that is NYC December 26-28, 2010:
What a disaster: Ambulances unavailable. Trains stalled for hours. Streets unplowed. Fire trucks stuck in the snow. Buses canceled.
These were not mere "inconveniences" -- as Mayor Bloomberg put it at one point -- in the wake of Sunday's widely, and accurately, predicted snowstorm; in some cases, they were potentially life-threatening foul-ups.
And to such an extent, you've just got to wonder if the response could have been better.
Yes, it was one of the worst storms in recent city history, dumping some 20 inches of snow, sometimes as fast as 3 inches an hour.
But let's face it: The city had plenty of warning.
And yet, agencies -- particularly the Department of Sanitation -- were unable to meet the challenge.
That left far too many New Yorkers without critical services -- from buses and subways to EMS crews.
The heart of the problem: insufficient plowing. Impassable streets meant canceled bus routes, ambulances unable to get through -- even stuck fire trucks. Some medical calls went unanswered for hours (though high priorities got speedier attention). That's just unacceptable.
Similarly, you'd think subways could've been running better.
Or that FBI agents would be brave enough to venture out. Instead, they declared a snow day, just as they did amid a snowstorm last year. At least this time, some of the higher-ups reportedly showed -- which, we guess, is progress.
Make no mistake: There's only so much that can be done in a whopper of a storm like this one.
And the city and the MTA did take steps to prepare.
Plows faced a sisyphean task in trying to keep up with the snowfall rate. Likewise, it's no small feat to keep all of the subway's 656 miles of track clear.
Plus, the storm produced a few positives: Kids got to play in Central Park, and Mayor Mike's beloved bike lanes were (at least temporarily) obliterated.
But New Yorkers were left hanging yesterday. Lives were put at risk.
(You can be sure the lawsuits are already being prepared.)
The city needs to do better.
It's true, they substitute the word "city" for "Bloomberg," but nonetheless the sentiment is the same as elsewhere in the papers, on NY 1 and the blogs:
Bloomberg failed, but he was so arrogant about it all that he refused to acknowledge the breadth and scope of the problems.
I'd say that is a good idea.
And Bloomberg needs to be hauled up and called to account for the ill-preparation of the city and his refusal to take any responsibility for the mess.
With Bloomberg, when things go wrong, it is ALWAYS somebody else's fault.
For a guy who likes to hold other people accountable for things that are often out of their control, he sure doesn't like being held accountable for things that ARE in his control, like how many sanitation personnel he puts out on the streets to plow 20 inches of snow.