FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 28, 2010
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON THE CITY’S RESPONSE TO THE WEEKEND BLIZZARD
Mayor Bloomberg’s Remarks as Delivered at the Office of Emergency Management Headquarters in Brooklyn:
“Well, good morning. Brooklyn, as you may know, was one of the boroughs hardest hit by the blizzard – and that’s why we’ve come here for this update.
“Anyone who’s been outside recently can see that this storm is not like any other we’ve had to deal with, including the big blizzard of 2006. In this case, the snow did not stop falling until 9:30 yesterday morning and we had blizzard conditions up to about 6:00 a.m. And when storms end determine when we can get the plows out there, and how much traffic we have to deal with. If the storm occurs on the weekend, it’s a lot easier to deal with than if it occurs going into a real business week. Fortunately, this is a quiet business week, so there is some mitigation to that problem.
“And because the snow fell so quickly and in such great amounts and because the wind blew so forcefully – creating whiteouts – many motorists got stuck and abandoned their vehicles in the middle of streets. Yesterday, when I was driving through all five boroughs, there were some roads on the South Shore of Staten Island, and in both Brooklyn and Queens, where the snow was almost blinding coming across, blowing back on to what had been a plowed road. And you really had to slow down and drive very carefully.
“So far, the NYPD and authorized tow trucks have removed approximately 1,000 vehicles from the Van Wyck, Gowanus, and Cross Bronx Expressways alone. We know that many streets still have not been plowed – and I saw that myself, yesterday, when I was visiting small businesses in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.
“Sanitation workers and other people we brought in for services have been working long and hard hours and dealing with enormous obstacles to get our streets cleared. But the fact remains that many New Yorkers are still coping with the serious hardship as a result of the blizzard.
“And I want them to know that we do appreciate the severity of these conditions they face, and that the bottom line is we are doing everything we possibly can, and pulling every resource from every possible place to meet the unique challenges that this storm is posing.
“Today, our number one challenge is stuck ambulances and abandoned cars and buses. These abandoned vehicles are making it very difficult for our plows to move as quickly as they usually do, and that is one of the real differences between this storm and past ones that we’ve dealt with. It does take a lot longer for us to dig out and tow vehicles than it does to plow an average street in an average snowstorm. And we are doing everything we can to try to get more tow trucks in.
“We’ve offered a bounty for those private companies that have tow trucks, we’ve got tow trucks from a number of different agencies that have all contributed. But until we can pull out the ambulances, pull out the fire trucks, pull out the buses, pull out the private cars, the plows just can’t do anything. And so, we’re focusing on what we can do. We’ve already reduced the number of ambulances and buses stuck dramatically, but we still have a long way to go.
“That said, digging out ambulances is the first priority. The Police and Fire Departments and the Office of Emergency Management are working together on this massive effort – and they have made enormous progress. And you should know that the States of New York and New Jersey have loaned us 35 ambulances, helping us reduce the backlog of EMS requests. Overnight, the teams were able to clear 168 ambulances – some of them, unfortunately, got re-stuck. And as of 9:30 this morning, there still were 40 on the list.
“Obviously stuck ambulances with patients on board are handled first. Our second priority is to dig out all the other vehicles that are blocking our streets and slowing the work of our plows. That’s why we’re calling anyone who can help us to get more tow trucks to please give us a call.
“To remove these vehicles and plow the streets they occupy, we have called in, borrowed, and hired equipment from other regions and have made use of everything our City departments have to offer in the way of equipment and manpower, and Joe Bruno can go over a list of which City agencies have contributed their equipment. But collectively, they represent I think the biggest effort to clear snow that our City has ever seen.
“The Department of Sanitation is still out in full force with more than 2,000 workers,1,700 plows, and other miscellaneous vehicles, including snow melters and salt spreaders. We just hired another 8 tow trucks to help us dig out South Brooklyn. The Parks Department has taken all their frontend loaders, plows, and salters out of parks and put them on the streets. That includes nearly 800 staff operating 198 vehicles.
“The NYPD had 40 tow trucks out last night and engaged another 70 private tow and 16 heavy duty trucks. 25 of those tow trucks are still out today, including 14 to assist EMS; 6 to remove vehicles so that the snow melters can be strategically located; and 5 deployed to the East River Bridges to remove disabled vehicles.
“Our Department of Environmental Protection has deployed 24 vehicles, including 6 plows that were dispatched to City Island. Another 5 DEP dump trucks are on the way from upstate. The Department of Transportation has 240 employees working on the roads today using 126 pieces of equipment, including 16 heavy- and light-duty wreckers that are being transferred from plowing to towing.
“Our Economic Development Corporation put plows on the front of our graffiti trucks, and are using them to clear properties such as Hunts Point and the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Our Department of Design and Construction, which oversees construction of City buildings, has been calling everyone trying to hire private equipment. Their efforts have been slowed because so many of these businesses take off during this week of the year. Still, we are calling everyone and reaching out to their organizations that may be able to help us and lend us equipment. In the past, we've had help from airports with equipment, but not this time. The airports are still digging out. When the airports finish digging out, we would expect that some of the equipment that’s being used there would become available to us to work on the streets. That’s been our experience in the past.
“We need all the resources we can get and we are asking New Yorkers to do a few things as well. First, your patience. It is a bad situation, and we’re working together to correct it. We appreciate it. I’ve been to see it myself. Nobody suggests that this is easy. Nobody suggests that this is pleasurable. But I can tell you this, we are doing everything that we can think of, working as hard as we can. And we will pull together and get through this.
“Second, we need some help with blood donations. Blood supply in the city is getting very low, and with another three-day holiday weekend coming up it will get even lower. If you are able to travel and have the ability to donate blood, we need your help now more than ever. So please call the New York Blood Center at 1-800-933-2566 or visit www.nybloodcenter.org.
“Third, we ask that you be careful. The snow will melt a bit today and then it will freeze again overnight creating some dangerous, slippery conditions on the sidewalks. Please walk with care. Also, when you get back into your cars, make sure that the exhaust pipe is not blocked with snow. If it is, your car can fill up with carbon monoxide, which is toxic and we just don’t need more deaths.
“Now for an update on where City services stand: All East River Bridges are clear and traffic is moving freely. The Staten Island Ferry is operating on a normal schedule. Alternate Side Parking and meter restrictions are suspended today and we are suspending garbage and recycling collection until we have finished cleaning up the snow.
“The NYPD had a backlog of up to 400 calls last night. As of right now, there is barely no backup. The FDNY had a backlog of over 1300 calls last night; as of a few minutes ago, it was down to 166, which is a normal thing.
“Now here’s what we’re doing going forward. Today I have directed Skip Funk, who is our new Director of the Office of Citywide Emergency Communications, to conduct a comprehensive review of 911 call-taking and dispatch functions. We brought him into our Administration just three months ago to revamp our City’s emergency communications system.
“He is one of the country’s leading experts in this field. His experience in designing and overseeing emergency response communications in Chicago – which I was deeply impressed with when I saw it – and his understanding of 911 systems gained through private industry leadership I think uniquely qualifies him to lead this review. And he will closely examine overall 911 functions to assure us that we are utilizing best practices for emergency call handling.
“We will review the details of recent 911 call queuing to ensure we are processing emergency calls to NYPD, and through NYPD to FDNY and EMS, as efficiently as possible. I have asked Skip to report to me and to Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith regarding systemic, practice, and staffing issues which we experienced this week in a time of extraordinary conditions.
“The NYPD and FDNY will work closely with Skip to identify any operational or technical shortfalls that they may find, including but not limited to Unified Call Taking and systems capabilities, and determine what short-term and long-term actions are necessary to improve overall emergency response operations.
“Where we find room for improvement, we will take immediate action. Rest assured, we will do everything possible to ensure we have the best emergency response system and procedures possible. It may be that we already have it, it may be that we don’t, but if we can improve something, we’re going to do it, and we’re going to take a look at everything. There are no sacred cows.
“We’ll take some questions, but first let me just try to summarize for our Spanish speaking audience: Los vehículos que fueron abandonados en la calles durante la tormenta nos ha dificultado la limpieza pero estamos haciendo todo lo posible y estamos utilizando todos los recursos que tenemos. Este es el esfuerzo de limpieza más grande que ha visto nuestra ciudad.”
Stu Loeser / Jason Post (212) 788-2958
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