Mayor Michael Bloomberg set out to conquer the most recent snow storm to blanket New York City — and succeeded.
But the public schools he closed today are another matter.
By the time Mayor Bloomberg started his 10am press conference at City Hall to updater the city on snow removal efforts, he had already given live interview to three radio stations and New York 1 News.
Joining Bloomberg were the city's commissioners for police, transportation, education, sanitation, and emergency services, all waiting to answer any questions. They had been working since before sunrise.
City officials held a 4am phone call, at which point they decided to close city public schools, according to the schools chancellor, Cathie Black. Hours before that phone call, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had ordered their buses off city roads so as to not hinder the city's snow removal efforts, said the MTA Chairman and CEO, Jay Walder.
1,700 plows from the Department of Sanitation were clearing the streets by the time Bloomberg's press conference was underway, he said. They were aided by additional equipment from other agencies, plus 128 more trucks hired for the day, along with 1,500 day laborers.
"All primary streets and highways have received at least one pass of the plow. We’re now working on secondary and some tertiary streets," Bloomberg said. "Our expectation is that by tomorrow morning’s rush hour, all of the city’s streets and roadways will have been plowed."
The city's response to this storm was notably different than the one just after Christmas, which took days to clear, drove Bloomberg's approval rating south and is the subject of an investigation into allegations that city workers purposely botched the efforts in order to embarrass the mayor.
"We’ve now had the snowiest January in New York City’s history," said Bloomberg, almost proudly. "We had 36 inches since January first, breaking a record last set in 1925.”
The mayor acknowledged "dozens of ambulances were stuck at one point or another overnight" but that "no patients were left in the stalled ambulances." When asked about the decision to close city schools because of the snow — something that's only happened nine times since 1978 — Bloomberg was, at first, matter of fact about the whole thing. A combination of mass transit delays and road conditions, made this the right decision for “parents, students and staff," he said.
Sitting in the press corps was one of those students impacted by the decision: 12th grader Myles Miller, a regular attendee of mayoral press conference who routinely reports for an assortment of youth-oriented and citizen-journalist web sites.
After Miller and another reporter asked about the regents exams slated to be given on Thursday, the mayor said that exam wasn't a factor in deciding whether to keep schools open.
“That’s not one of the things that went into our decision making process at all,” said Bloomberg. “The three things are safety, practicality and the economic impact” of parents having to miss a day of work.
Black, the schools chancellor, said 46,000 students were scheduled to take the history and regents exams, 22,000 were lined up for the geometry regents exam, and another 28,800 students were scheduled for the reading, science, chemistry and physics regents exams. The exam is run by the state, which has a policy of not rescheduling it for students who miss their tests.
The next opportunity to take the tests are in June. Which is somewhat problematic, Black acknowledged for "a few hundred" students who were set to graduate this January. "And in the past, they don't make any exceptions," Black told reporters after the press conference.
Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott said the city is talking with state education officials to find a solution for those who couldn't take the regents exams.