Updated 08/28/2011 10:44 PM
For Bloomberg, City's Response To Irene Helps Quell Memories Of Botched Snowstorm
Planning for Hurricane Irene was a high-stakes exercise with lives at stake -- and also political consequences. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following behind-the-scenes report.
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Outside on Sunday morning it was still overcast -- but getting through Hurricane Irene made Mayor Michael Bloomberg feel like there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
"It left you with a wonderful feeling about New York and New Yorkers," the mayor said at a post-storm press conference on Sunday.
It's not as if the response to Irene will suddenly reverse Bloomberg's third-term popularity challenges. But all the preparation -- with a boost from Mother Nature -- could help heal recent political damage resulting from questions of competence that Bloomberg suffered after the Christmas weekend snowstorm that City Hall admits it botched.
"We put things in place. You have a plan," Bloomberg said Sunday. "We've worked on this plan for many years, and then it's my job to stand out of the way and let them do it."
Actually Bloomberg was hands-on, making major edits on two addresses he gave about Saturday's unprecedented evacuations.
And while the mistakes of the snowstorm played in the background, it was the 2005 tragedy of Hurricane Katrina the cast the greater shadow.
Bloomberg aides were concerned about a repeat, so much so that Bloomberg's top political advisor, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, studied histories of what went wrong.
With Irene roaring up the East Coast, the philosophy was better safe than sorry.
Flood maps were revamped. The sick were moved. Mass transit was shut down. The Rockaways were evacuated.
If Bloomberg was under pressure, one top advisor was feeling it twice as much. Deputy Mayor for Operations Caswell Holloway was new to the job, having taken over for the official who oversaw the city's tepid response to the Christmas weekend snowstorm.
"Of course I was nervous," Holloway said Sunday. "Because you have to make decisions in the right time, in the right order. On the one hand, you don't want to make a decision and move too soon, and on the other you don't want to risk moving too late."
Holloway slept four and a half hours over two days. But Bloomberg didn't sleep much either.
"Before I went to sleep a little after midnight, I looked out the window," Bloomberg said. "I got up at three in the morning to look out the window and then when I got up at six I looked out the window."
He was relieved at what he saw.