Yesterday, city sanitation commissioner John Doherty promised that every street would be plowed by 7 a.m. this morning (email us your photos—firstname.lastname@example.org). To keep him to his word, the Today Show broadcast live from a snow-covered street in Brooklyn, where there was ample evidence of the city's broken promises. Today the Times, the Daily News and the AP/CBS2 published withering reports on how the blizzard response failed, and fingers are increasingly pointing to Mayor Bloomberg's new deputy mayor for operations, Stephen Goldsmith. Who is this guy and when can we toss him in a snowbank?
Juan Rodriguez at the News notes that Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis, is one of those privatization fanatics whom plutocrats like Bloomberg love so dearly. Before New York, he made his bones in Indianapolis laying off municipal workers and contracting private companies to provide public services. Here in NYC, Goldsmith, besides asking NYers for money-saving ideas, was in charge of overseeing the snow response, but he was in the Washington area this weekend and didn't surface at the command center until Monday.
Critics say that had Goldsmith and Bloomberg declared a snow emergency on Saturday night, it would have given car owners time to move their vehicles off 300 designated “snow emergency streets," thus clearing the way for plows. Declaring a snow emergency is also "a very strong, powerful public message which has a certain effect," Norman Steisel, a Koch administration veteran, tells the Times. And Jerome Hauer, who served as Giuliani's emergency management commissioner, says, "If they said we were getting a blizzard, it was kind of a no-brainer."
Declaring a snow emergency would have also given a greater sense of urgency to city agencies and the MTA. Instead, the Times reports that "important aspects of rescue operations and disaster preparedness — diesel trains and other heavy machinery, like trains that blow snow off tracks or spray antifreeze on the third rail — were not automatically deployed." It wasn't until just before noon on Sunday that the MTA went to "Plan 4," the full-press emergency response. But buses and subways continued to operate, and by Monday hundreds of buses were abandoned on the streets, blocking the plows.
And in an interview yesterday, Doherty admitted that the call for private plow owners came too little, too late. It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that Doherty appeared on television pleading for help from private contractors, but by then many of them had already committed to working the airports. "If we had the private industry and the front-end loaders early, come in, it would have been a big help, no question about it," Doherty told the Times. "Why did we wait so long? Well, maybe that is something we have to look at, no questions about it. It is a problem."
In the interview, Doherty—a veteran of the department who worked his way up through the ranks, fell on his sword—but one city official tells the News that Goldsmith has taken a special interest in the Sanitation Department, adding that Goldsmith "micromanages everything in this department." And Pat Bahnken, president of the EMS workers' union, tells the News, "I started getting text messages from ambulance drivers at 3 a.m. Monday that they were stuck in the snow. I urged the Fire Department to declare a snow emergency, but they were told City Hall said 'no.' "Last night Mayor Bloomberg tweeted, "Like many of you I am extremely dissatisfied with the way our emergency response systems performed."