FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 6, 2011
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON PREPARATIONS FOR UPCOMING SNOW
Mayor Bloomberg's Remarks as Delivered in the Blue Room at City Hall:
“Good afternoon. I thought we’d have a brief update on forecast for snow. The forecast for tomorrow is S-N-O-W. Current projections call for between two and six inches of snow in all five boroughs. As you know, snow is greater in some places than in others, and these forecasts are estimates, but that’s roughly what every one of the three forecasters we use are calling for.
“I was asked, since entering office nine years ago, how many snowstorms we have had of this order of magnitude, and we think there’s roughly 70. We’ve handled all of them expeditiously and without major incident, and we don’t expect tomorrow to be any different. As I keep saying, we have held ourselves – and continue to hold ourselves – to very high standards of performance in our Administration, and while I realize there were problems with the City’s snow cleaning efforts last week, we want to ensure all New Yorkers that we are doing everything in our power to make sure we don’t experience those kinds of problems again. We plan to do a great job, the kind of job that the public has come to expect us to do, and you will see that tomorrow.
“We have 1,700 snow plows and 365 salt spreaders at the ready – as we do for every storm. We are also instituting a number of changes in advance of tomorrow’s snowfall that I thought you might find interesting.
“Over the past week, as you know, we’ve been conducting a comprehensive review of what went wrong and why. That review is still going on, and will go on for a period – and although much of it focuses on catastrophic events like last week’s storm, which isn’t applicable for tomorrow’s snowfall, we are acting right now on what we have learned so far.
“First, one of the big problems that hindered our response last week was that we didn’t have as much information as possible about our snow-clearing operations. That created a discrepancy between the information coming into and out of City Hall and what people were actually experiencing on the streets – which, understandably, led to a lot of confusion and frustration. To help remedy this, this time we’re going to deploy our SCOUT teams – which is an observation unit, as you know, that roams the city throughout the year looking for quality of life issues. They will carry video cameras during tomorrow’s storm that can transmit live feeds back to City Hall. Whether those will be useful or not, I don’t know, but we are going to try it and have it, and if we need it maybe it can add something to our efforts. What it will do is it will give the people directly managing our storm response a first-hand look at the conditions of our streets and highways, and any other unusual problems that might arise in neighborhoods.
“To help improve communication during our response, we also are piloting a program tomorrow in which we are installing GPS tracking devices in 50 sanitation trucks assigned to the ‘Brooklyn 14’ garage. This garage covers areas of Midwood, Flatbush, Ditmas Park, and parts of Kensington – some of the neighborhoods hit hardest in last week’s storm.
“On a trial basis, we have installed GPS tracking and vehicle monitoring technology on certain trucks in one garage in Queens. That was done a few years ago and they did prove useful, but the cost of four of five years ago when this was done – maybe it was even longer than that – was just go great that we really couldn’t afford it. Today, technology is much more affordable, and assuming that tomorrow’s pilot is successful, we will continue to install a GPS device in every one of the Department’s 1,700 trucks to be used when we are plowing, when we are salting, and when we are picking up garbage. It gives us the ability to check on the location and progress of our snowplows or garbage pickup, and these GPS devices will also allow two-way communication, giving our Sanitation workers a way to contact their district supervisors if they experience problems or spot something unusual out in the field. All they have to do is touch one button and it works two ways between the garbage and between Sanitation trucks that are working together. We have three trucks, typically, that work together in terms of how they go down the streets, and when they have different responsibilities, this will let them better communicate. And the cost today is dramatically less than what it would have been back when.
“In addition to these efforts, we are also making operational changes within two of our agencies. Yesterday, as many of you know, our Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano announced a new Chief of EMS: Abdo Namod. Our Emergency Medical Service contains the most professional and dedicated EMTs and paramedics in the world – but I think last week’s storm exposed problems in the way it’s operated and I decided to make changes to EMS. And Chief Nahmod I think is the right person to do that. He has been with the City for 25 years, he knows an enormous amount about how EMS works and understands the responsibility. And reflecting the importance of this guy to the City, we are also elevating the position from three to four stars which will give him more credibility. The person – Chief Peruggia, is still an employee of the City. I just thought that it was time to have a fresh look, and since things didn’t work out as well as we had hoped, it’s time to have somebody else come in and sometimes a new guy can do it better. Not to say anything about the dedication or the hard work of the last person, that happens a lot.
“At the Department of Sanitation, Commissioner Doherty, as you may know, also made some management and personnel changes in Brooklyn that will help fix some of the problems we identified during last week’s storm. These changes will be effective Monday, although the two new commanders will be shadowing the current occupants of their positions during tomorrow’s snowfall – so that we’ll have two sets of hands on deck. We think this will also strengthen our training procedures for all workers to help them keep pace with the changing technology and equipment. In addition, we are redistributing the areas covered by the Department’s Brooklyn South and Brooklyn North districts – in order to make their workloads more equitable and manageable.
“Before I turn the floor over to Commissioner Doherty, I want to stress that the actions I have announced this afternoon are only initial improvements that we are putting in place for tomorrow’s storm. It’s certainly not the last word on the subject.
“The Mayor’s Office of Operations is conducting a comprehensive, multi-agency review of what went wrong with our responses – and we will have more to announce next week in conjunction with the City Council on these issues.
“Skip Funk, as many of you know, is our new Director of Citywide Emergency Communications. He is looking at how and why our 911 emergency system became so overwhelmed. I had a meeting with him this morning, we’ve talked about technology, we’ve talked about the procedures to take calls. I will say that I was pleased to see that the technology worked on the number of calls answered, we did keep up with it. It was when they then were directed to EMS, EMS just could not keep up with the demands. Police Department basically did, Fire Department basically did, so there’s an awful lot right with the 911 system. And I saw last week’s statistics on fire deaths this year, which broke last year’s record that went back to something like – way back, 1917 I think it was – but regardless, this year we even had dramatically fewer fire deaths than that, and that’s a function of quick response time and getting information to our brave firefighters so that they can get to the fire and safely get water on the fire and get people out as quickly as possible. So there is some good news there.
“Also, Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn and the Department of Investigation, as you know, are conducting an independent investigation that I asked her to do into reports of a slowdown among members of the Sanitation Department, and we’ll see what that investigation uncovers, if anything.
“The changes that we’re announcing today I think reflect on how we are always looking for ways to improve the City’s response to snow storms and other emergencies. For nine years, we have insisted on accountability from all agencies – and from all City employees, from top to bottom. When something goes wrong, we stop everything, we find out why it went wrong – and we fix it. And we can spend a lot of time should have, would have and could have. My focus has always been how can we do it better tomorrow? And that’s what New Yorkers expect from us, and that’s what we have an obligation to deliver, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Stu Loeser / Jason Post (212) 788-2958
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