2011-01-07 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Goldsmith No Longer In Indianapolis
Commentary By Howard Schwach

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis, Indiana to New York City as its new Director of Operations, he called Goldsmith a “reinventor of government,” who would make all the difference.

Goldsmith certainly did make a difference. The city’s response to the recent blizzard was perhaps the worst on record since Mayor John Lindsay knocked himself out of office by neglecting the outer boroughs in favor of Manhattan during a similar storm.

Bloomberg gave the Indianapolis hick all the power he needed to do what Bloomberg and his administration do best: destroy unions, fire workers, privatize city services and put bike lanes and tourists above those poor losers who actually have the temerity to live in places like Brooklyn and Queens.

The idea that we here in Rockaway and in the outer boroughs were in trouble first came to me on Sunday night, at the height of the storm.

Television news stations were showing the tourists cavorting in Times Squares as several snow plows continued to loop back and forth, cleaning the snow off the streets so that the tourists could have an unimpeded evening of snow.

Tourists from Europe and other parts of the United States were interviewed by eager reporters, telling how much they loved New York and enjoyed the blizzard experience.

Meanwhile, I went to the door and watched Rockaway Beach Boulevard looking hopefully for a plow.

No hope.

Plow my street? Not until early Tuesday morning. Plow major east west roads like Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach Channel Drive. Sorry, maybe later, after Manhattan and the bike paths are cleaned. After all, we have our priorities.

Bloomberg said shortly before the storm hit that he wanted to be known as the best mayor the city ever had.

That is a joke, and we are beginning to understand that Bloomberg is not only a liar but he is a lousy manager as well.

On Monday evening, the head of the EMS union began to get calls from his workers that they were stuck on unplowed streets and could not get to residents in need.

He called the emergency control center and asked that a snow emergency be declared to get everybody but emergency vehicles off the streets. He was told that the word from Bloomberg and Goldsmith was that no snow emergency would be declared. The word from the mayor was that the city was functioning “normally,” and there was nothing to panic about.

In 1996, when a similar snowstorm hit the city, Mayor Rudy Giuliani quickly declared a snow emergency, getting private cars and buses off the street so that the plows could do their jobs and the emergency vehicles could get where they were going.

Not this time. Stalled buses and private cars clogged the streets. Plows could not get through. People died.

All because Bloomberg and Goldsmith decided that the city should go on normally during the sixth worst snowstorm in city history.

According to Juan Gonzalez, writing in the Daily News, Goldsmith was out of town and did not show up in the command center until Monday, and nobody would say where he was.

Didn’t he know the storm was coming? Everybody else did. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it. Perhaps he was back in Indianapolis.

Bloomberg’s mouthpiece told Gonzalez that Goldsmith was in constant contact with the mayor and with city managers. Didn’t do us much good. One Wave reporter who lives in southern Brooklyn didn’t get to work until Thursday, four days after the storm. Because his street was never plowed and the subways and buses to Rockaway were not running on a regular schedule.

His street was plowed for the first time early on Thursday morning.

One major decision made by Goldsmith was to cut the Department of Sanitation staff, forcing many supervisors back on the street. His plan was to privatize the snow removal process by hiring contractors to show up only when a storm hits, thereby saving lots of money on salaries and benefits.

It was Christmas weekend, and many of the private contractors just refused to work. Great planning from a true middle-American who seems overwhelmed by the New York City experience.

The staff reductions and the demotions have caused great tension between the department’s rank and file and city managers.

There was a New York Post story on Thursday that the union had decided to teach Bloomberg and Goldsmith a lesson by slowing down the snow removal process.

That may well be true, but such a plot would leave a large footprint and somebody would have gotten wind of what was planned and put a stop to it.

It is more likely that the lack of supervision and motivation of the private contractors led to a breakdown in the process that eventually cost some people their lives.

During the height of the storm, plows were out in midtown plowing the bicycle lanes while adjacent car and bus lanes remained under two feet of snow.

That may well be the scene that defines Bloomberg’s mayoralty.

The real New Yorkers who live in the outer boroughs buried by snow while tourists and bicyclists frolicked in Manhattan.

Not a pretty picture, but one that Bloomberg would understand.

If he really wants to change what happened in the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2010, he has to start listening to those real New Yorkers, the ones who actually make the city work. But, he won’t. He has shown a great disdain for teachers, firefighters, cops and the others who keep the city going.

Thank goodness, this has to be Bloomberg’s last term. He was only allowed two terms, but bought a third by promising lots of people many things and then welshing on his promises.

Of course, now that his presidential hopes are buried in a blizzard of laughter and scorn in the rest of the nation as well as in this city, he may try to buy himself another term. Will anybody take him up on his promises this year? I sure hope not.

Eric Ulrich, who was a big Bloomberg supporter, had it right when he spoke on a New York 1 forum late in the week.

“The mayor was saying that Broadway was open and everybody should enjoy a Broadway show,” Ulrich said. “How the hell could my constituents enjoy Broadway when they could not even got out of their driveways or get emergency medical support?”

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