DWT Team Snowstorm Coverage continues: How Cutbacks Work
On December 26, New York City was hit by its sixth-largest snowstorm on record. Twenty-plus inches fell throughout the city's five boroughs. While it’s common and necessary for airports to close during such times, it’s unusual for New York to be brought to a halt by snow, as happened this time. I’ve lived in New York for over 30 years, and I’ve always marveled at how quickly the city government can make huge amounts of snow, as much or more than we just got, disappear from the streets; not this time.
Looking back 20 years, the city once had 15,000 sanitation workers. It now has 5000. For a city as big as New York, that 5000 is nowhere near what is required. There are, no doubt, fewer salt trucks and plows to keep the streets safely cleared. Buses and fire trucks became stuck in snow. Even the vaunted subway system suffered service interruptions and shutdowns to its above-ground lines, despite ever-rising fares. The result of all of this was a fortune in lost work hours and wages. Small businesses especially suffered.
In an era when businesses and employees have little or no margin to absorb a loss of income, the storm is not the disaster. The city’s ability to respond to the snow is the disaster, and people have died because of it. A newborn baby died in the lobby of an apartment building because no EMS units could get to the door. A 75-year-old woman died because, due to unplowed streets, an ambulance spent almost two hours attempting to reach her and never did get there. The EMS techs eventually had to walk in, as if they were going to a cabin home in the backwoods of Idaho. Alas, these were “the little people.” Bloomberg and his Wall Street buddies get their tax cuts, but the city gets service cuts, life-and-death service cuts. It’s all part of the redistribution of wealth upward. It’s the class warfare of Merry Old Victorian England: lords and serfs.
The mayor does a mea culpa: The NYT reported late this afternoon: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg accepted responsibility Wednesday for the city’s response to a crippling snowstorm, pledging to have every street plowed by morning and then to figure out why his administration’s cleanup efforts were inadequate."
This is not a case of hindsight being 20/20. The dunderheads who run New York City, led by billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg, could have foreseen this by looking at what was required in the past and how effective it was. Bloomberg has had three terms to figure it out, but lizard brains can’t bring themselves to figure out such things. Or is it that they just don’t care, as long as their limos and copters can get them where they want to go? The city has laid off so many workers that we now not only see buses and fire trucks stuck in drifts, unable to move down the street, but we also had snowplow trucks sitting idle because there were no drivers to drive them. Many who were drivers are now among the city’s numbers of unemployed or are retirees who have not been replaced. The next time you see a storm like this happen, you might hear of someone just stealing a plow truck and driving off to plow and save his own neighborhood. I suppose the Republicans would call that pulling one’s self up by one’s bootstraps, before they throw the guy in jail for grand theft auto.
This situation is the logical end result of 30 years of Reaganomics, the economics of trickle-down and cutbacks of services and jobs, and these jobs aren't even the kind that people like Bloomberg and his Wall Street ne’er-do-well cronies love to ship to India. As I write this, New York is damn lucky that a fire in some neighborhood hasn’t burned out of control, destroying an area of several square blocks or more. The genius Bloomberg should also be thankful for global warming. When I was growing up in the area, the temperature would remain below freezing at this time of year. Recently, big snowstorms here have been followed by a quick rise in melting temperatures that do more now to get rid of snow than the city is equipped to do.
New York is surrounded by water. It used to just plow and cart the snow into the rivers and watch it disappear. Without the needed workers and supplies, they just can’t do it anymore. What the geniuses of New York have come up with is a snow-removal plan that would work beautifully -- in July.