NEW YORK—As another, relatively minor storm approaches the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference Thursday afternoon to update the public on what multi-agency investigations have learned from the city's slow response to the blizzard of 2010.
The National Weather Service is predicting two to four inches from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon with winds of around nine miles per hour.
“Should have, would have, and could have—my focus is always on what we can do tomorrow,” said the mayor.
The number one problem the city’s investigation diagnosed was a lack of communication and getting needed information to those coordinating the response. The mayor has put together a scout team that will go out with cameras and transmit back to City Hall what is happening on the field.
A pilot program will supply 50 GPS machines to sanitation vehicles in Brooklyn. Tracking the vehicles will lead to better organization and management, says the mayor. If the pilot program works well, all 1700 sanitation vehicles in the city will soon have GPS.
Skip Funk, director of the Office of Emergency Management, reported to Bloomberg that the FDNY and NYPD responded in a timely manner to emergency calls. The problem was in the deployment of EMS vehicles.
Ambulances were directed at one point not to go down streets that had not been plowed, said Bloomberg. The ambulances ended up going down these streets anyways, showing insufficient control over the situation, according to the mayor.
The chief of EMS command, John Peruggia, was demoted Wednesday evening.
“Since things didn’t work out as well as we had hoped, we think it is time for someone else to come in … [who] might be able to do something better,” said Bloomberg. He recognized that Peruggia worked hard—right through the night—but decided to make the change. Bloomberg also reported that Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty made some management and personnel changes "that will help fix some of the problems we identified during last week’s storm."
Assistant Chief Joseph Montgomery, who supervised Brooklyn South has been reassigned to the Cleaning Operations office. He will be replaced by Thomas Killeen, who is currently working in the Cleaning Operations office. Deputy Chief Joseph Susol, who was on duty the night of Dec. 26 in Brooklyn South will be reassigned to district 18. He will be replaced by Deputy Chief Jack Ryan.
"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," said Bloomberg.
The Department of Sanitation will rezone to make management of cleanup easier. Better employee training, especially driver training, will be a priority according to a department press release.
Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn is continuing an investigation into the Department of Sanitation’s efforts after the blizzard. Allegations that sanitation workers deliberately impeded snow removal remain unverified.
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty reported that everyone citywide would have one garbage pickup by Thursday night. He also had 1,700 plows at the ready Thursday night, though snowfall is not expected until Friday morning. By next week, the garbage collection is expected to be back on track, Doherty reported.
Bloomberg asserted that investigations are on-going and these initial changes are just a taste of the “comprehensive, multi-agency reform” that will follow.