Tag Archive | "Michael Bloomberg"

The Chicken or the Egg?

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In 1976, a blizzard nearly took my life.  I caught the last train home from New York City, where the streets were plowed clean as whistles, as they’d been for every preceding blizzard the moment that the snow kissed them.  Emerging from the subway station, I entered a nightmare out of a bygone era, when pioneers got lost in whiteouts mere yards from their front door.  Visibility was so poor that I couldn’t make out the traffic lights through the relentless snow.  In the days before cell phones, the five-block walk home was the longest I’d ever taken, and I prayed all the way.  I couldn’t see my neighbors’ fences, but I knew they were there.  Like a blind soul reading Braille, I felt my way along those fences until I arrived home, shaking but safe.

A day or two later, I drove along Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue extension toward Queens, where had sprung up an alien landscape, a tunnel of snow.  Walls of the white stuff 30 feet high bracketed both sides of the road, obliterating Floyd Bennett Field, a large military base, from view.

I thought the storm of ’76 was the worst I’d ever experienced.   Last weekend, I was proven wrong with the blizzard of December 26, 2010.

It wasn’t that the Tri-State area got slammed with more snow than in ’76; we didn’t.  It was how that blizzard was handled or rather, mishandled, that made it one for the books.

On December 27th, responding to residents’ pleas, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’ disembodied, outraged voice rang out city-wide on newscasts, for none of the streets in Brooklyn or Queens had been plowed.   A New York Senator (Charles Schumer, I believe) chimed in shortly thereafter with the same report, demanding accountability.   However, it was later revealed that the Staten Island street on which New York City Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty resides was plowed beautifully.  His testy response?  “I live on a major road.”  How’s that for a nice middle finger salute to the little guy?

Simultaneously, New York’s OEM (Office of Emergency Management) refused to call a state of emergency.  This, despite the fact that as of mid-morning, December 27th, 1,400 calls from New York’s five boroughs were logged into 911, all linked to the storm.  One EMT unit spent ten full hours with an asthma patient, depleting 26 tanks of oxygen because its vehicle could not manuever out of the street on which the patient lived.  Ten hours after the EMTs had arrived, the woman was finally rescued by the intrepid NYFD and rushed to a hospital.

Mayor Bloomberg popped up in the media, whining nasally for citizens not to call 911 unless they had an actual emergency!  He admonished drivers to stay off the roads, as snow-mired vehicles prevented emergency workers from carrying out their mission.  But hey, since nobody had the nuggets to declare a state of emergency, what came first, the chicken or the egg?  Who was really to blame?  Who called the shots here, OEM or the Mighty Mike Bloomberg?

My money’s on Bloomberg; historically, he’s run the city as if it were a general ledger and not a metropolis teeming with living, breathing people.  Did Bloomberg seek to set himself up as a hero at the 11th hour by trimming the budget where the budget should never have been cut?  Hell, the guy made history by getting himself elected for a third round in Gracie Mansion (an obvious prelude, methinks, to a shot at the White House).   So what’s a little budget snipping at the expense of the taxpayers?

Meanwhile, back at the farm … New Jersey that is … the situation was far from rosy.   Routes 34 and 35, for starters, were closed in places, as they were not navigable.  Folks needing to go north on the Garden State Parkway entered southbound lanes and drove against traffic.  Route 1 in both directions had been reduced to two lanes and ramps leading onto major highways, such as Route 18, resembled the slopes at Shawnee.

Patrick Elias and Travis Zajak, star players of the New Jersey Devils, attempted to return home during the storm.  Instead, they spent the night in Zajak’s car, as Route 280 was an accident waiting to happen.  A woman stranded by the snow gave birth in her car.  By Monday morning, December 27th, 100 snow-related accidents had been reported on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Missing in action was our Governor Christie, but the guy’s entitled to take a vacation out of State — the United States, that is.   The person not entitled to go out of State in the governor’s absence was Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno — yet she took a powder anyway.

On Tuesday morning, December 28th, Jim Gearhart of 101.5 FM took a call from one of the dwindling ranks of workers employed to plow out various municipalities across New Jersey.  The man stated point blank that his supervisors had told him that the budget for snow removal had been slashed significantly, and a lot of roads would remain unplowed.  Adding insult to injury, the man relayed that the plows were not dispatched until a foot of snow had covered the ground.  By that time, he said, the volume was simply too much for the equipment to handle.

The budgets got cut; our taxes didn’t.  And the snow remained intact, paralyzing the sixth largest city in the United States and the most densely populated State in the nation.

Would that we could find a snowplow big enough to dump the many miles of snow squarely onto the heads of the politicians whose primary concern is to look good on paper and whose least-pressing concern is for the safety and welfare of the people.   

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