Thursday, January 6, 2011
Are cuts to NYPD, FDNY, other departments leaving city unprepared for Terrorists attacks?
What if next time it is not a blizzard, but a terrorist attack?
What if city officials discover to their astonishment that departments besides sanitation were so weakened by budget cuts that they could not adequately respond?
What if we suddenly miss those thousands of cops we have lost?
What if we discover we need not fewer fire companies, but more?
What if we are reminded what a difference change booth clerks can make in the subway in a crisis?
What if we realize that we have been weakened in ways we did not anticipate until it was too late?
Officials reassure us they are prepared and by every indication they are right.
But they also told us they were ready for the blizzard.
And the guy at the top does not seem to fully appreciate the magnitude of the failure, though he was in the middle of it.
Even when he was no longer out of town, our usually masterful mayor seems to have been out of touch.
Check it out for yourself at NYCMayorsOffice on Twitter, which posted a series of photos taken of Bloomberg on a kind of culinary tour through the outer boroughs Dec. 27.
"Checking out the roti options at Sybil's Bakery in Queens" reads the tag line for one.
"Hot food on a cold Brooklyn day...thanks Kettle Black!" reads another.
"NYC family making the best of a snowy day with an early dinner at Colonnade Diner," reads another.
The last photo shows Bloomberg smiling with a couple and their two kids in the Staten Island eatery.
"Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of nite (sic) keeps NYC's diners from serving up great food," the tweet adds.
Such an attitude and such a tour would only be fitting for the mayor of a New York who had shrugged off the blizzard, as it has storms of recent years. Bloomberg's relaxed expression suggests he imagined he still ran such a city.
As clocked by the tweets, he was able to proceed from Ozone Park to Bay Ridge to Staten Island in just over an hour, including however long it took him to grab a bite at the Bay Ridge spot.
That would be making pretty good time with no snow, which makes you wonder if perhaps somebody called ahead with the mayor's route and made sure it was cleared, maybe without him even knowing.
That could have fostered an illusion that it was still the city he thought it was. The rest of us were learning otherwise as we struggled through unplowed streets.
At least part of the failure was due to Bloomberg's decision not to declare a snow emergency.
Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter did so at 2 p.m. Sunday, just about when our mayor was returning from out of town.
The result of doing it in Philadelphia was that the plows were able to clear the major roads from curb to curb without encountering parked or stalled cars.
The result of not doing it in New York was a disaster.
Bloomberg must have thought the Sanitation Department was up to the job.
He remains confident in the capabilities of the police and fire departments and I sure hope he is right.
One person I hope is wrong is a friend in counterterrorism who suggests that officials are aware that the emergency services are as weakened as sanitation.
"Sad to say, but they're trying to give everybody a snow job," my friend said.
He then said something that is incontestably true.
"It's not vital until you need it."