One of my New York-native friends said her relatives were calling the post-blizzard city a "zombie apocalypse."
It's bad enough that NYC has laid off 500 sanitation workers in the last two years (you know, instead of taxing Wall Street) or that there were plows sitting idle because they didn't have enough people to drive them, or that people died because the EMTs couldn't get down their streets.
But that the mayor didn't even bother to call a snow emergency? That's plain crazy.
Make fun of Philly all you want, but by canceling Sunday night's Eagles game, we kept 60,000 cars off the streets at the height of the blizzard that didn't need to be there. Looking at the pictures of New York with abandoned cars and buses everywhere is just surreal. (Of course, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's street was nicely plowed.)
Not to mention, NYC residents couldn't go back to work. Manhattan was cleared, but people couldn't get in to work from the outer boroughs. Wonder how much taxable revenue was lost this week?
This is why it's such a bad idea to run government like a business. This isn't a business, it's a government. It has to provide basic services, no matter what.
It's probably no secret that Wall Street has the same attitude toward New York City that they have toward the rest of the country: "You're lucky to have us." That's why, instead of taxing them, Bloomberg bends over backwards to make them happy. After all, they might move to New Jersey!
So Bloomberg keeps cutting. He laid off 500 sanitation workers and privatized much of the snow plow operations. Guess what? Plows sat idle because employees of the private contractors were on vacation during the holiday.
Harry Nespoli, head of the sanitation workers union, warned of potential problems back in October:
Better hope for a warm winter because the number of city sanitation workers has dipped so low that they might not be able to handle a big snowstorm, union officials say.
"The city is rolling the dice," said Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association. "We're noted as the best snow-fighters throughout the world."
The city has hired only 200 sanitation workers since 2008, but hundreds more have retired, Nespoli said.
There are fewer than 5,800 sanitation workers on the job, compared with 6,216 one year ago and 6,473 in 2008. And there are no immediate plans to hire new sanitation workers before the winter.
"We're going to do the best that we can with what we have, but it might take longer to dig out the city," the union chief said.
"We cover more than 6,300 miles during a major storm. That's like going to California and back twice."
Yes, the city not only laid off hundreds of sanitation workers, they put the supervisors back on the street and made them take a $5000 pay cut. (Not great for morale, since landlords don't offer a rent cut.)
District Council 37 came up with its own list of ideas, saying the city could generate more than $500 million a year by cracking down on uncollected taxes and reducing the number of city contracts.
"Layoffs of any city worker will end up costing the city money," said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts.
"Layoffs in the city's Department of Finance are particularly self-defeating. These are revenue-generating positions. The millions in tax revenue that goes uncollected because the Department of Finance is understaffed amount to tax breaks for the wealthy," Roberts said.
Hmm. Bug -- or feature?
Meanwhile, Bloomberg is now taking the blame. (For someone who loves to grade the public schools and attack teachers, he's curiously reluctant to criticize his streets commissioner -- who, I'm told, had his own street plowed all the way to the blacktop as soon as the storm stopped.)
Daily Kos poster HamdenRice says Bloomberg's probably just committed political suicide:
What's so shocking is that we are experiencing the complete collapse of city government. There is no Sanitation Department, which is usually fantastically reliable during snow storms. EMS is paralyzed in responding to most streets. There's no Access A Ride, and the police have disappeared. There is no mass transit out here in a city that depends on it more than any city in America.
This isn't a minor failure. The collapse of city infrastructure in my part of the outerboroughs -- and from what I've read on line in parts of Brooklyn -- is comparable to what happened in New Orleans during Katrina. I don't want at all to equate what's happening to the people here to what happened there -- but I do want to compare the bizarre collapse or withdrawal of services due to incompetence.
What's worse, is that none of this was necessary. All Bloomberg had to do was let the system run the way it always runs. Declare a snow emergency and let the Sanitation Department do its thing. For inexplicable reasons he's been trying to defend, he didn't declare a snow emergency. Apparently, rumor is that another aspect of Bloomberg's spectacular incompetence was that he redeployed plows that would usually be out here and in Brooklyn, into Manhattan so they could be plowed even more frequently than normal.
Oh, and by the way? Compare and contrast. Here's the mayor's street in Manhattan, Monday afternoon, and a street in Rego Park, Queens: