Mayor Bill de Blasio got a lesson in the politics of snow – and the media – yesterday as he initially defended his handling of Tuesday’s blizzard and then backtracked later in the day by saying “more could have been done” to help residents on the Upper East Side and dispatching more Sanitation workers to dig things out.
But how bad were things in the neighborhood on Tuesday night? NY1’s Michael Herzenberg was there during the evening rush hour and said it was mess with traffic grinding to a standstill – accentuated by a lane closure on the Ed Koch Bridge. Meanwhile, a Sanitation Department website showed that many Upper East Side streets went unplowed that afternoon as snow continued to fall.
The New York Post piled on yesterday with a front-page headline screaming “Shambles!” with a smaller headline “Turmoil as Blas botches ‘early’ snow.”
But perhaps everyone needs to take a deep collective breath of chilly air before lumping this storm with the blizzards that buried John Lindsay in 1969 and Michael Bloomberg in 2010. In both of those cases, city streets went unplowed for days, leaving residents stranded and feeling forgotten.
In contrast, the complaints from the Upper East Side were coming as the snow was still falling. And is it any wonder that rush-hour traffic – which is bad on the average day – was horrendous?
De Blasio and his team knew that the overall cleanup in the city was strong and reacted defensively at a morning press conference yesterday – with the mayor declaring “nobody was treated differently” as he faced questions about whether he was favoring his home borough of Brooklyn over Manhattan. But hours later, the mayor went to the Upper East Side to meet with some residents and then issued a semi-apology in the late afternoon.
De Blasio’s quick retreat in the snow is symbolic of the new mayor’s management style – a marked contrast to the stubbornness of Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani or Bloomberg – all of whom treated an apology like a dirty word.
In de Blasio’s case, a mea culpa may not have been necessary – but it put the story to rest. The mayor who wants to be everyone’s favorite teacher learned a lesson of his own and melted a little in the snow.