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Bloomberg gets post-Irene praise, but Holloway 'secret to success'

Monday, August 29, 2011 - 05:35 PM

Former Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, left, with Cas Holloway and Michael Bloomberg, right, in 2010. (Courtesy of the Mayor's office.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is scooping up praise from elected officials and civic leaders for the city’s handing of hurricane Irene. Sure, the storm itself was a bit overblown, but few, if any, officials joined naysayers in questioning the mayor’s precaution tactics ahead of the storm’s landing late Saturday.

“Now that Hurricane Irene has come and gone, New Yorkers should take a moment to recognize that the storm’s effects would have been much worse if Mayor Bloomberg had not taken steps to properly prepare the City for the worst storm to hit the East Coast in decades,” New York City Comptroller John Liu—not always the biggest fan of the mayor—said in a press release.

“When I need to be critical of Mayor Bloomberg, I am,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. “But I have to tip my hat and give kudos when it's merited."

“I think they handled this extreme well,” Staten Island Councilman Vincent Ignizio said, after noting he had been a critic of the mayor in the past. “It goes to show: When the hierarchy is clearly in place the operations flow appropriately."

Ignizio’s comment about operational flow is worth highlighting. A number of those interviewed praised not only the mayor, but the mayor’s newly appointed deputy mayor for operations, Cas Holloway. After a stint at the head of the city's Department of Environmental Protection, Holloway was brought in to replace Stephen Goldsmith after Goldsmith resigned. Goldsmith was largely—and possibly unfairly—blamed for much of the city’s shoddy emergency response to the massive snowstorm back in January.

At the time, Holloway’s appointment was cast largely as a reversal for the mayor, who’d been installing outsiders like Goldsmith in key positions. In Holloway, the mayor had a seasoned city bureaucrat; someone whose strength was working inside the system, not shaking it up.

The move paid off. The city’s well-praised response to Hurricane Irene might be redemption for Bloomberg. But for Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway it is a victorious trial by fire.

“He’s an Ed Sklyer protégé. He did just as good if not better,” said Brooklyn City Councilman Domenic Recchia. The councilman was referring to Holloway’s time as chief of staff to another former deputy mayor for operations, Ed Skyler—the man Goldsmith replaced. The position gave Holloway an invaluable insight into how operations works.

The office of Deputy Mayor of Operations oversees many of the city’s emergency response agencies. The heads of the police department, fire department, sanitation and taxi commission all report to operations, as does the crucial Office of Emergency Management.

“Clearly the mayor is the ultimate authority and the chief executive. However, it is the deputy mayor for operations that runs the city,” said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College. Muzzio said the administration as a whole learned their lesson from the blizzard debacle earlier this year, and perhaps none better than Holloway.

“It appears that operationally it [the city’s response to Irene] went as smoothly as it could conceivable go and you have to give a lot of credit to the deputy mayor for operations," Muzzio said.

“He did an excellent job. He’s a very hands-on guy who knows every detail on how the city works,” said a person who worked closely with Holloway during the storm. “In situations like this that comes in handy."

The person agreed to speak on background only, but said that Holloway worked closely with the mayor to ensure local elected officials and community leaders were kept informed and were listened to, something echoed by local elected officials in conversations.

“He knows exactly what the role is, who the people are, and he has a good relationship with the mayor," the person said.

So while Mayor Bloomberg soaks up the praise for a job well done, it’s worth remembering how important having the right people, in the right places, at the right time is. If New Yorker’s are thankful for the way the mayor’s office handled Irene, no one deserves a bigger pat on the back than Cas Holloway.

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