December 30, 2010 in Nation/World

Blizzard is hot issue for politicians

Top brass absent while traffic clogs New Jersey
Sara Kugler Frazier Associated Press
 

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty discuss the city’s snow removal efforts Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

NEW YORK – With many streets still unplowed, New Yorkers are griping that their billionaire mayor is out of touch and has failed at the basic task of keeping the city running, while New Jersey’s governor is taking heat for vacationing at Disney World during the crisis.

The fallout against two politicians who style themselves as take-charge guys is building in the aftermath of the Christmas weekend blizzard that clobbered the Northeast, with at least one New Jersey newspaperman noting Gov. Chris Christie’s absence in a column headlined: “Is Sunday’s storm Christie’s Katrina?”

Across New York, complaints have mounted about unplowed streets, stuck ambulances and outer-borough neighborhoods neglected by the Bloomberg administration.

“When he says New York, he means Manhattan,” said Hayden Hunt of Brooklyn, a borough of 2.6 million people where many streets were not cleared for days. “He’s the man in charge. … It’s foolishness, come on.”

Bloomberg, a third-term Republican-turned-independent who is occasionally mentioned as a long-shot presidential candidate, spent the first day after the storm on the defensive, testily dismissing complaints and insisting the cleanup of the 2-foot snowfall was going fine. But he later adopted a more conciliatory tone.

On Wednesday, as stories began to surface about people who may have suffered serious medical problems while waiting for ambulances, the mayor was his most apologetic – without actually apologizing.

“We did not do as good a job as we wanted to do or as the city has a right to expect, and there’s no question – we are an administration that has been built on accountability,” he said. “When it works, it works and we take credit, and when it doesn’t work, we stand up there and say, ‘OK, we did it. We’ll try to find out what went wrong.’ ”

The city sanitation commissioner promised that every last street would be plowed by this morning.

Christie, meanwhile, has not been heard from publicly since he left New Jersey on vacation with his wife and four children. His spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said that the governor – who has also been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate – has been briefed while in Florida, and that the emergency services have functioned well across the state.

“This was definitely a big snow, but we are a Northeastern state, and we get plenty of snow, including heavy hits like this, and we’ll get through this just as we always have,” Drewniak said.

Christie’s absence at the same time his lieutenant governor was out of state left New Jersey’s Senate president to deal with the storm, which stranded thousands of travelers and left highways strewn with stuck and abandoned cars.

“They’re both entitled to a vacation, but not at the same time,” said Sen. Dick Codey, a Democrat who was acting governor for 15 months after Jim McGreevey resigned in 2004.

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