NEW YORK— New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio had been in office fewer than 48 hours when he was faced with his first big test - a major snowstorm. It brought up to 35 centimeters of snow, snarling traffic and slowing public transportation.
When New Yorkers awoke Friday morning, they were greeted with bitter cold winds, enough snow to close schools and a firm warning from the Big Apple’s new chief executive.
“If you do not need to travel today, please stay home. If you do have to travel, take mass transit. Yes, there will be some delays, but it will be safe, and it will help us to get the city 100 percent back in full running order,” said De Blasio.
Ceanup crews had made significant headway early, clearing the major roadways and pedestrian thoroughfares of the snow that had fallen overnight.
Charles Edmund, part of an army of at least 10,000 charged with getting life back to normal, said, “I am here shoveling snow just to make the city safe, so people could get to work on time.”
The economic impact of a major storm can be severe. One recent storm cost the city tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs, and the local economy hundreds of millions in lost sales, worker productivity and tourist dollars.
Still, Michigan visitor Kathy Weaver was resolute. “We are shopping, we’re seeing the sights, and hopefully going to find some good deals!”
At midday, city temperatures remained far below freezing. And, while public transportation and the shops were lurching back to normal, Connie Wong and her family gave the clean-up - and, by extension Mayor De Blasio - mixed reviews.
“I think the city could have done a little better with the streets. The sidewalks are great, but the streets themselves - I think they need a better clearing so we can get [our baby] carriages across,” said Wong.
In early January, the Northeast winter and De Blasio’s mayoral term are still in their infancy. There will be plenty of time to take the temperature of the new administration’s competence as the months unfold.