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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Speaks on Snow Situation In New York City

Aired February 17, 2003 - 11:48   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to get to that press conference that we mentioned to you moments ago in New York. Michael Bloomberg there just beginning his comments here to the press about how New York is dealing with this storm.
(LIVE EVENT JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: We have 2700 sanitation workers out on the job, 1700 pieces of equipment on the streets. The sanitation workers are now all working two 12-hour shifts. And we have about 350 salt spreaders helping the plows. Right now, we've had about 17 inches of snow in the city. We expect a few more inches and we'll see how good the forecast is. It's supposed to taper off after 2:00. But, as you know, with the weather, it's difficult to predict.

In the meantime, Sanitation Department is focusing on the main streets and one of the difficulties is as fast as they plow, the new snow just adds back in. So they don't get a chance to get to the secondary and tertiary streets. But they will over the next day, as the snow moves out. And they get the main roads open.

Our advice to people is to exercise some common sense and have a little bit of patience. Dress warmly. It is -- there are blizzard conditions out side. When you go to work tomorrow morning, mass transit is the ways to go. We suggest you do not move your cars. Nobody should bring cars into the city. If you go on the snow emergency routes, you have to have chains and snow tires.

The bridges are in good shape. The Department of Transportation maintains those now, the Sanitation Department used to, but they've taken that over. And all the bridges and tunnels are working fine. But, once you get here it's obviously going to be very difficult to find a place to park. And some of the roads won't really be plowed until Wednesday. It just there's so many roads and this is a major snowstorm, which doesn't happen very frequently. The last time we had this amount of snow was back in 1996. And it took about 42 hours to get to every street. We're going to try to do a little bit better this time.

But the bottom line, is some of these streets just, we're not going to get to them. And if everybody could just exhibit some patience and a little bit of humor, dress warmly, wear boots, but I suggest you join me on the subways. Subways are the best ways to get around town. They are safe. They are quick. They are inexpensive and they go where you need to go. Buses will also be running. Today the private bus companies have stopped service, just because there's so many roads they couldn't get through and you get so little need for them on a holiday. But tomorrow will be a business day and we expect them to be back in service. The fact that today's a holiday does make it a lot easier for us. But tomorrow will be a business day, as usual and you should go to work.

It turns out that just because of luck, this is a week when the kids are on vacation. So I think a lot of people will take their kids to the parks. Exercise some caution. Snow's fun to play in, but obviously if there are fenced off areas, you don't want to go into them and make sure your children are dressed warmly. And when they get wet, the way all kids do playing in the snow, get them indoors and dry out and put on some dry clothes.

We'll be happy to take some questions. We have OEM and DOT and sanitation here. Yes? Start back.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

BLOOMBERG: Well, its difficult roads to get through. Everybody's driving very slowly. A lot of secondary and tertiary roads, you run the risk of getting stuck in. And so I can't tell you that you can get response time as fast in these conditions as we would like to deliver, or as you can when there's no snow on the roads. But the Sanitation Department's doing the best they can, and the fire department and police department and all of the ambulance drivers will do the best they can. Just exercise some common sense.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

BLOOMBERG: Well, we're way over the budget, but you know, the bottom line, is you spend the money and then you have to find ways later on to cut something else or raise your revenues elsewhere. Budgets are there for planning purposes, but when it comes to providing services the city needs, you have to just go do it and then find ways to change the budget, retrospectively.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

BLOOMBERG: I'd love to take credit for arraigning it to be today, but I have absolutely nothing to do with that. But, yes, it is a good day because the streets are not filled with a lot of automobiles. And that makes all the difference in the world for the plows to get down the street.

What is not good is that the snow is continuing. So when you plow a main road, you have to come back and keep doing the same road over and over. You don't get a chance to get off the main roads and go on to the secondary ones and then the tertiary ones.

But we will be working 24 hours a day until we get everything. And you know, I know people will be annoyed that their street wasn't plowed. Keep in mind the Sanitation Department is doing everything it can. These snowstorms come along periodically. We always wish you had more equipment but there's just a limit to how much we have.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

BLOOMBERG: Oh its -- you'd prefer not to have it but given the magnitude of our budgetary problems, the extra money to plow today isn't going to make a lot of difference. So we...

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

BLOOMBERG: We've always used a million dollars an inch is a good rule. So let's see when it's done. But if you add 20 inches, that's $20 million dollars. It's a number like that.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) holiday overtime?

BLOOMBERG: It's a rough number. You can't put it down to specifics. We'll see afterwards and remember, a lot of the Sanitation Department would have been working anyway but there's no question this costs money, like every other service.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

JOHN DOHERTY, SANITATION COMMISSION: Well, the warmer weather is definitely going to help us. After the '96 storm it took us about 42 hours, the mayor said, to get to all the streets. So I'm hoping that we don't get as much as in '96 and that we can do it a little quicker. I feel right now we're a little bit ahead, even with the way it's snowing out. I think we're a little bit ahead of the game.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

DOHERTY: It just seems to be looking at what's out on the street and going around myself, my personal observations on many of the roadways, they seem to look a lot better than they did in '96. I got a feeling we're a little bit ahead of the game.

BLOOMBERG: Keep in mind that the commissioner was the commissioner in '96. So he has experience in dealing with this. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

DOHERTY: They -- no. Every burrow -- there's 59 districts in the city. Each district has it own complement of salt spreaders and trucks. And they started yesterday about 4:00, I think we started with our first spreaders out in Staten Island and shortly after that we started putting out plows and as the evening went on, we went into our plow operation.

QUESTION: What is your strategy for like, secondary and tertiary roads?

DOHERTY: Well, we want to go through all the primary streets first. Remember, primary streets are your arterial network and its all your bus routes. And that's one of the things we want to make sure we have clear for tomorrow morning. All the major bus routes, all the major transportation streets.

The problem right now is that we plow them, you go a couple miles and the operators have to turn around and come back and re-plow. So, you go through this cycle until the storm ends, which hopefully it will end early this evening. That way we will get an opportunity to dress up the main streets and then start moving into the secondary and tertiary streets.

BLOOMBERG: One of the things the city has just done is we've declared a snow emergency. What that means is that the Commissioner can now hire private contractors. We didn't need them before because private contractors don't do the plowing. They help in getting rid of the snow once it's piled up. But now is the time and the cycle you want to reach out to the private companies by declaring a snow emergency.

The rules of the city allow us to go to private contractors, hire them, rent their equipment. So we will do that I have always spent some time on the phone a number of times with the governor. The governor will declare a State Of Emergency at our request for the five counties. That lets us, if we were to need state aid in terms of people or equipment, which we don't think we do it would then be available with one phone call. But also it will help us in paying for this because the federal government does provide monies for counties when the governor declares a state of emergency.

HARRIS: There we have Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York there. Giving us a picture of what his city there is facing this morning. Seventeen inches of snow, but they've got 250 salt trucks out there. Some of the garbage trucks converted into salt trucks and snow plows at there, dealing with that. Seventeen hundred pieces of equipment out there dealing with this snow.

They believe that they are a little ahead of where they were in '96 the last time they dealt with snow this big. But, the words from the Mayor this morning to residents of the city are to one, be patient, dress warmly and don't bring your cars into the city. Even if you did, there would be no place for you to park them.

Take the subway if you have to go anywhere in New York. And these kids obviously are not going anywhere. They're enjoying the snow out there in Central Park. Folks, be careful out there in that snow.

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