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De Blasio Responds to First Emergency as Mayor

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Mayor Bill de Blasio has spent much of his short tenure so far shoveling snow, but on Wednesday, he had to deal with a different part of his job: responding to a major emergency. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

It was a long march down East 116th Street for Bill de Blasio on Wednesday, with smoke still wafting, flanked by emergency responders, the police commissioner and the speaker of the City Council.

It's sometimes said that being mayor is less about lofty ideas and more about keeping the sidewalks clean, but de Blasio had another duty to deal with on Wednesday: a major emergency.

"Extraordinary, fast, precise response by our first responders," the mayor said.

De Blasio was quick to commend his administration's response and defend that of Con Edison's.

"This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people," he said.

The mayor first heard of the explosion about 10 minutes after it happened from Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris.

About an hour later, the mayor decided to go to the scene. He arrived two hours after the explosion, meeting behind closed doors with first responders and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district office was just a few doors down.

"My office is being used as a command center," Mark-Viverito said. "We're interacting with families, finding out who's in hospitals, trying to get the most accurate information. We do not want to raise alarm unnecessarily."

While this may be the mayor's first large emergency, he was surrounded by old hands. Both Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano and the head of the Office of Emergency Management served under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and this is not their first crisis.

"It's going to be, make no mistake about it, a long, extended operation," Cassano said.

The mayor wasn't shy about delegating.

Even with these veterans by his side, some honed in on one vacancy. The mayor has yet to appoint a commissioner for the Department of Buildings.

"Obviously I would like that post to be filled as soon as possible, and I think that this happened, it's going to again going to push it to the forefront of everybody, including the mayor," said City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn.

"The bottom line is, we have very professional, experienced people at each agency," de Blasio said.

They were all on 116th Street on Wednesday.

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