Mayor Michael Bloomberg swore in hundreds of new sanitation workers Wednesday, praising the department for its work one year ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and bestowing a special honor on one worker who went beyond the call of duty. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
City sanitation workers were widely credited for helping the city recover from Hurricane Sandy by quickly clearing debris.
That wasn't all Dennis Healy did. The night the storm hit, Healy rescued neighbors in Rockaway Beach from their burning home, improvising a life raft out of an inflatable mattress.
"He delivered one neighbor to safety, then returned to save another, and another, and another," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "And all told, Dennis helped save the lives of six New Yorkers that day."
"We grabbed the people, threw them on there. I stripped down, jumped in the water. And that’s basically it," Healy said. "Just survival."
On Wednesday, Healy received a gold medal of honor from Bloomberg and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, part of a swearing-in and promotion ceremony.
Altogether, the department welcomed some 300 new workers on Wednesday. Another 40 employees earned promotions. There was also praise reserved for the existing workforce, which helped remove some 400,000 tons of debris from city streets in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
"During the most difficult time, this department provided a ray of hope and a rock of stability," Bloomberg said.
"The men and women went out there, with little notice, jumped in, worked 12-hour days, one day after the other," Doherty said. "I don't think they had a day off from the first morning until Thanksgiving Day."
That includes Healy, who himself is still out of the home he lost in the storm, and was clearly uncomfortable with all the attention being paid to his heroics.
"It was just acting, you know what I mean?" he said. "Basically, how sanitation workers do every day. We're just out there in the street, we see something, we always just, it's natural."