There's no question the November 15 snowstorm that virtually paralyzed the city caught city officials flat-footed.
And Thursday offered City Council members an opportunity to vent.
"Six inches of snow and a partial bridge closure shut down the greatest city in the world, making us a joke throughout the nation," said City Council Member Mark Gjonaj.
The city continued to cite factors outside its control, like the wildly inaccurate forecast, and a 21-car pileup on the George Washington Bridge. And Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said navigation apps like Waze made matters worse by giving overly optimistic travel estimates and directing people onto clogged local roads. Where the city failed, she said, was in not communicating better once the storm worsened.
"Our messaging primarily said something around 'Exercise caution.' That is not a strong enough message," Garcia said.
As for lessons learned, Garcia said Sanitation will do more to pre-treat roadways, and will plan for far more accumulation than forecast when storms similar to this one approach. And the agency will develop plans to give plows and salt spreaders emergency escorts and to allow them to drive against traffic. Some council members chafed at the Mayor's refusal to accept blame.
“What's wrong with apologizing?” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. “Even if there were factors outside of our own control, what is the problem with saying, ‘I'm sorry?’”
“I am certainly sorry that we did not message this, and that we were not able to make it so that people understood the challenge that they would face ahead, whether or not they were commuting or in school buses or they were parents," Garcia responded.
As for stranded school buses, education officials say they'll make plans to provide food and water and possibly shelter at nearby school buildings in a similar crisis. And they said it was a concern for over-tired bus drivers that led them to belatedly cancel after-school programs the day after the storm.
City officials say they are still conducting a full review of the city's storm response. That is expected to be complete next week.