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City Snow Response To Feature Video Scouts, GPS Tracking

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Amid a personnel shake-up in response to the botched handling of the last blizzard, the mayor announced Thursday that the city's response to Friday's snowfall will include scout teams with video cameras in all five boroughs and sanitation trucks with GPS tracking devices in Brooklyn.

Taking a new approach, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference on Thursday afternoon to discuss the upcoming snowfall and to say the city has 365 salt spreaders, 1,700 plows and thousands of workers ready to hit the streets.

The snowfall will start Friday morning, reach its height between 3 to 6 p.m. and end around midnight Saturday. Bands of snow could create greater accumulation in spots.

Winds could reach near 15 mph, and the wind chill could reach the teens. Airports are expected to have delays, but closures are unlikely. The Friday evening commute will be slow and slippery and roads will be slushy.

The mayor said that a comprehensive multi-agency review has shown that there was not enough information about possible snow-clearing obstacles before last week’s blizzard, which led to the city's sluggish response.

Bloomberg said the city will deploy scout teams to roam the five boroughs with video cameras to search for snowy streets and to transmit them back to City Hall. The city will also install GPS tracking devices on 50 sanitation trucks in some Brooklyn neighborhoods as part of a pilot program.

"We did not know where all of our trucks were. We did not know how many stuck cars and buses there were. We did not have the kind of information we needed to respond," said Bloomberg. "How much better the response would have been had we had all the information is a separate issue, but one of the keys is to have the right information. We have to have the information. If you cannot measure it, you cannot fix it."

The Department of Sanitation says the restructuring changes will help make the Brooklyn South Sanitation zone more manageable. The area, which covers two-thirds of the borough, was the last to be cleaned following the last storm.

"After examining our performance during the massive blizzard that hit us the day after Christmas, among the things we found were that structural and personnel changes were in order in Brooklyn to create a more balanced operation," said Commissioner John Doherty in a statement.

"The actions I have announced this afternoon are only initial improvements we are putting in place for tomorrow's storm. It's certainly not the last word on the subject," said Bloomberg at the news conference.

Three City Officials Change Positions

As the city prepares itself for Friday's snowfall, the head of the city’s Emergency Medical Services has been demoted and two Department of Sanitation workers have been reassigned.

Brooklyn South Assistant Chief Joseph Montgomery will move to the Sanitation Department's Cleaning Operations office. He will be replaced by Assistant Chief Thomas Killeen, who currently works in that office.

Brooklyn South Deputy Chief Joseph Susol is also being relocated to Brooklyn South District 18. Susol, the DOS says, was on night duty throughout the blizzard. He will be replaced by Brooklyn South Deputy Chief Jack Ryan.

According to the DOS, the changes will be fully effective Monday.

The DOS says it has also worked to improve training procedures.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano also announced Thursday that John Peruggia, the head of the city’s Emergency Medical Services, has been replaced.

Cassano says Peruggia, who held the position for six years, will remain in a new role that has yet to be determined.

Sources say Peruggia was already in trouble over a conflict-of-interest case involving a trip he took with a vendor that works with the city.

He is being replaced by 25-year EMS veteran Abdo Nahmod, who most recently served as Chief of Emergency Medical Dispatch.

According to reports, Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Bruno is also on the hot seat for his handling of the storm response, but the mayor denied Thursday that Bruno's job is in jeopardy.

Overall, the mayor acknowledged the city did not live up to the public's expectations, but he specifically praised some aspects of the city's response, including collaboration between police, fire and EMS services.

The shakeup came amid investigations into the city's storm response that left more than 100 ambulances stuck in the snow and created a backlog of more than 1,000 911 calls.

"We did not get the ambulances to giving people the kind of help they needed as quickly as, in retrospect, I think we could have done," said the mayor at Thursday's press conference.

Union head Patrick Bahnken, who leads Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors FDNY, feels the blame lies with another department.

"At the end of the day, it's this simple -- the Office of Emergency Management failed to manage the emergency. And that, in my opinion, is where the greatest accountability lies," said Bahnken.

Federal prosecutors and city investigators are also looking into claims that sanitation workers sabotaged the city's snow cleanup. The sanitation unions have denied those accusations.

Meanwhile, trash is still piled up throughout the city, nearly two weeks after the storm.

Residents on Manhattan’s East Side spent the week waiting for crews to collect their garbage. Bags of trash and recycling still block some sidewalks and bus stops.

Recycling collection remains suspended until further notice.

Those who live nearby said they are tired of waiting.

"In all these years I've been a New Yorker, I've never seen it this bad, never!” said one resident. “All this garbage, I mean it's no excuse, no excuse. There have been snow storms before. It's never been this bad before."

The Sanitation Department says they plan to have all of the garbage picked up by the end of the week.

The mayor could take heart in some of Thursday's developments, including a deal reached with the City Council that took a slew of proposed budget cuts off the table.

Now, 20 fire companies scheduled to close at night will stay open. Parking meter rate hikes planned for outside Manhattan and above 86th Street are also on hold for now.

The mayor, however, is not out of the hot seat. During Thursday's press conference, he was asked where he was on December 25, the day before the blizzard, and he responded that his private time should remain private.

The City Council is holding a hearing about the response to the blizzard on Monday.

NY1 will have LIVE coverage of the council's blizzard hearings, starting at 11 a.m. Monday.

Public Hearings On Snow Response

Besides the City Council hearing on Monday, the council has scheduled these public hearings about the blizzard response in each borough:

Staten Island
Tuesday, January 18
7:30 p.m.
The Michael J. Petrides School
715 Ocean Terrace

Brooklyn
Wednesday, January 19
6 p.m.
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street

Manhattan
Thursday, January, 20
6 p.m.
Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building
163 West 125th Street, Room 8ABC

Queens
Friday, January 21
12 p.m.
Queens Borough Hall
120-55 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens

Bronx
Monday, January 24
6 p.m.
Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College, CUNY
Savoy Building D
120 East 149th Street
(between Walton and Gerard Avenues, west of Grand Concourse)

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