FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2010
MAYOR BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON SNOW STORM PREPARATIONS
The following are the Mayor's remarks, as delivered:
"Good afternoon. I am joined by Calvin Drayton, First Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management, and Bill Chong Deputy Commissioner for Youth Services at Department of Youth and Community Development because the two Commissioners in that case are out of town, and also our Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is here. And three other people who you are going to hear from: Joel Klein, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty and the Mayor.
"A severe winter storm, as by now everybody knows, appears headed our way, with heavy snow totaling an estimated four to 14 inches and accompanied by high winds on Wednesday afternoon. The storm is forecast to begin tonight and continue through the early hours of Thursday morning. We don't know if the storm will be as severe as forecast, but if it is, it really does present potentially serious safety hazards. And so we are taking precautions to avoid those hazards, and we want New Yorkers to have the latest information.
"Let me point out that the forecast sometimes are wrong but because in this case the timing of the storm people will have to make decisions earlier before the worst is supposed to be here and so we wanted to exercise some caution. I'd rather be on the safe side, erring on the side of being safe than sorry.
"As Chancellor Joel Klein announced earlier today, we are going to close all of the City's public schools on Wednesday. Only a few inches of snow are expected to have been accumulated by the opening of tomorrow's school day. However, the forecast is for a much worse situation with blowing snow and possibly blizzard conditions by mid-afternoon tomorrow and we don't want to subject students to those conditions as they travel home or to after-school programs. And rather than sending students home early tomorrow - which would require their working parents to cobble together last-minute child care arrangements, we're instead closing schools for the entire day tomorrow.
"We do expect the schools will be open on Thursday, although we'll make a decision to resume classes obviously based on conditions later in the day tomorrow, and we'll make every effort to announce that decision as early as possible - just as we have today - so that parents and students and school staff can prepare accordingly. But we're trying to, obviously, get as many days of school in. Our kids need the education, that's our most important thing for the future of our society. It's just that the prognosis is for a very bad situation when these kids would be leaving school tomorrow afternoon.
"All Public School Athletic League events for Wednesday are cancelled. All City-funded after-school programs that are school-based will also be suspended on Wednesday. After-school programs that are located in community centers and other facilities will have the option to remain open if they feel that they can safely provide services.
"This afternoon, as children are picked up from after-school programs, their parents, guardians, or caregivers will be notified of Wednesday's closings.
"Other City agencies are also making storm preparations right now. As we speak, the Sanitation Department is already on split, 12-hour shifts, with 2,100 workers assigned to each shift. As today's refuse and recycling pickups are completed, sanitation trucks are being fitted with snow plows. And tonight, as a first line of defense, the department will deploy 365 salt spreaders to salt highways, primary roads, and bus routes.
"And once a 'plow-able' two inches of snow is on the ground, 1,600 plows will begin removing snow from our City's roughly 6,300 miles of streets and highways. The Sanitation Department's first duty will be to clear roadways and make them passable for emergency vehicles. To help them with that all-important task, I strongly urge motorists to refrain from driving in, or into, our City - unless it really is an emergency - tomorrow and Thursday. Please, use mass transit and you can visit the MTA's website at www.mta.info for travel advisories.
"The MTA is taking steps to ensure that subway, bus, commuter rail and bridges and tunnels remain safely operable tomorrow although in some cases some service may be reduced, particularly for Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains. Subway trains will be stored underground in tunnels instead of normal storage at outside yards. The MTA has 31 salt trucks to help spread salt on bus routes, and all of the MTA bridges and tunnels will be plowed and salted regularly.
"The Department of Transportation will also put 76 trucks and two pay-loaders with 100 staff on snow removal duty tomorrow. The DOT will have additional trucks and plows on our bridges as well. Alternate side of the street parking regulations will obviously be suspended on Wednesday, however metered parking regulations will remain in effect.
"Now I can't urge you enough to leave your cars at home. Tomorrow the storm is supposed to, if all goes as predicted, some time after midnight, light snow during the night and we can't really use the plows until you have a few inches because it's just wasting your time and digging up the streets for nothing. We will be spreading salt in the morning, however during the rush hour in the morning the expectations are that the snow will start to become heavier, and during the day blizzard conditions with very heavy wet snow, so getting home will be the big problem.
"If there are too many cars on the streets we just can't plow as quickly or as easily or as effectively as we can if there are no cars. We've been lucky this year that the snow storms have come on a weekend, that makes it a lot easier to plow, but you can really help. You can make a very big difference. Let me also point out that it will not be easy with your car. If you want to get stuck in big traffic jams and have a terrible trip home, take your car. What you're better off doing is taking mass transit, leaving your car at home or further out of the City and taking mass transit out to get there.
"The MTA is doing everything that they can to make the mass transit experience as painless and reliable as possible. They have to deal with the weather conditions as well, and I think that Jay Walder who really is doing a spectacular job in running the MTA understands the mission and they'll do everything they can.
"Our first responders, you should know, are also putting emergency plans into effect. The Office of Emergency Management also will activate its Situation Room at 6 a.m. Wednesday and representatives of key City agencies will be there to monitor the progress of the storm.
"The Fire Department will be staffing additional ambulance tours. And because heavy snow makes firefighting that much more difficult, we're also adding a fifth firefighter to all engine companies.
"The NYPD is taking what it calls 'Plan A' severe winter weather precautions. Police will survey roads for stranded motorists, and will be on the lookout for fallen electric wires. And incidentally this snow storm is predicted to heavy wet snow, which is about the worst thing you can possibly have for overhead lines because the trees can't stand the weight. Branches fall off or the trees themselves fall down, taking down the power lines so I would urge you to have at home milk and flashlights with new batteries and anything you need if you can't get out and if you do not have electricity.
"The Department of Buildings today issued a weather advisory to hundreds of construction superintendents across the City reminding them to secure their construction sites and buildings. Building inspectors will perform random inspections of construction sites today to ensure that equipment and loose materials are secured.
"The Department of Homeless Services has also issued a 'code blue' alert, which means that it is doubling the number of outreach vans that it is putting on the City streets.
"City government offices will remain open tomorrow and we expect City workers to be at their jobs. It is our job to serve the people of this City and we have to be at our desks and at our posts all across the City to do so. But of course we expect that with the approval of their supervisors, some employees will have to take leave time so they can stay home and look after their children, but that will be up to the individual supervisors.
"Before turning the floor over to Chancellor Klein, let me remind New Yorkers to take their own common sense severe weather precautions. When they go out, dress warmly, in layers, and keep clothing dry. Wear hats, gloves, and scarves. Avoid over-exertion when shoveling snow, and please don't cover fire hydrants when clearing walks and driveways. As a matter of fact, if you've got a fire hydrant outside you can say it's not your job, but if God forbid the Fire Department had to show up to put out a fire in your house or your apartment you'd want to make sure they could find that fire hydrant so it might be a good common sense thing to just take a few more minutes and shovel out around the fire hydrant. And at the corners it's a lot easier for your neighbors, particularly seniors, to get across the street if somebody will shovel that out.
"Call 311 if you're interested in shoveling jobs. We will obviously, if we get a lot of snow, be employing people but there's no reason why you can't pro-bono, as just a good neighbor, make it a little bit easier for everyone. And remember, speaking of neighbors, it's probably a good time to look in on neighbors who may need some extra attention before and during this storm."
Stu Loeser / Jason Post (212) 788-2958
Vito Turso (Sanitation)
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