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Council Hearing On Blizzard Response Opens

Pointed questions from council members to Sanitation, Office of Emergency Management heads

Update, 2:23 p.m.: Northeast Queens Council members Mark Weprin and Dan Halloran got their turn to address assembled Bloomberg administration officials regarding the blizzard response.

Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) inquired about rumors of lighter snow removal vehicles hampering the city's blizzard response. 

"The newer trucks, with the closed-looped ventilation system, had less weight ... and the light trucks made it more difficult to plow streets," Weprin said.

Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty dismissed those concerns, saying that the newer, yet lighter trucks were "better" because they could brake more effectively on icy surfaces.

Shortly after, Halloran (R-Whitestone) did not mention made to his office and restricted his remarks to complaints about delays and miscommunication from city agencies in the wake of last month's storm and its affect on residents of his district, which includes Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck.

"How was it possible to get info about salting if you weren't able to get info on what streets were plowed?" he said.

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A City Council hearing Monday on the Bloomberg Administration's response to last month's blizzard opened with pointed questions to commissioners of the Office of Emergency Management and Sanitation — and with a promise not to discuss allegations regarding an of snow removal efforts by cleanup supervisors.

"We have enough questions to deal with here," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn as the hearing opened at the former Emigrant Savings Bank building in lower Manhattan.

Among the agency heads testifying were Deputy Mayor of Operations Stephen Goldsmith, Sanitiation Commissioner John Doherty and Joseph Bruno, the director of the Office of Emergency Management.

As the point person for the Bloomberg administration's storm response, Goldsmith took personal responsibility for what the Mayor admitted was the city's "failure" to adequately prepare and execute a plan to remove snow from primary and secondary roads, particularly in the outer boroughs.

"Look, we did not do the job you expected," he said.

Among the highlights at the meeting was a demonstration of "faulty" chains on cleanup vehicles by Brooklyn Councilwoman Leticia James, an acknowledgement by Doherty of a dent in the reputation of Sanitation workers due to the storm and revelations that the city did not salt roads during the blizzard because of concerns about "waste."

At one point, a clearly agitated Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Astoria) had this to say about the city's snow removal efforts: "They were not in Queens, they were not in Brooklyn. They were not plowing where they were supposed to be."

However, perhaps the most surprising revelation — particularly for those waiting for Emergency Medical Technicians to arrive for loved ones taken ill during the storm — was the rationale given by Goldsmith for not declaring a snow emergency Christmas Day as the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the area.

"It was a decision that never ripened," Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis who recently joined the Bloomberg administration, said.

Check back with Little Neck Patch for more updates on the hearing.

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