Godzilla, renowned expert on public transit, disasters, big cities, snowfall, marine life, romance, and other topics, took a few minutes to answer my questions about last night’s blizzard and the first complete shutdown of NYC’s transit system since Hurricane Sandy:
Q: Godzilla, we’ve talked several times before about how public officials respond to impending disasters. In anticipation of what might have been 30-40 inches of snow, Gov. Cuomo ordered the shutdown of MTA’s New York City Transit, and Mayor de Blasio ordered all roadways closed to everything but emergency vehicles at 11 pm last night. But we all woke up this morning to find that little more than six inches of snow had fallen in NYC. What gives?
A: True Boots, you know I take this stuff seriously. As a guy involved in disasters, I have to say public safety should be the top priority of any public official. Keep roads clear for snowplows and ambulances. Let everyone know you’re serious about getting everyone but emergency personnel to stay safe at home. But. When I woke up at 7 am–which is sleeping in compared to a lot of working people I know–I saw zero updates from public officials on what was going on. Nothing on websites or Twitter feeds letting the public know how we’d get to work today.
Q: You wanted to work today?
A: Listen. I’m not the kind of guy you want to keep cooped up at home. I’m a fire hazard.
Q: What kind of update did you want?
A: Anything. Even just a message saying public officials were assessing the situation. But there was nothing until after 7:30. I was annoyed. Entire fleets of workers from NYC’s Dept of Sanitation were out plowing roads, emergency officials were up all night at the NYC Emergency Operations Center, MTA workers were out running ghost trains to keep outdoor subway tracks clear all night. Would it have been too much to ask a few interns to stay awake enough to post a handful of updates to Twitter?
Q: Governor Cuomo announced in his 8 am press conference that the MTA would reopen on a weekend schedule after 9 am. That wasn’t enough for you?
A: I’m just saying those guys looked pretty well rested. Gov. Cuomo, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast, all of them looked like they’d gotten a full night of sleep. Which is great, but they had employees working all night. And it burns me up that the 8.25 million people of the City of New York had to wait for these guys in Albany to get their beauty rest and have a cup of coffee before we heard a word about whether they’d be so kind as to open up NYC’s transit so we all could get back to work if we needed to. Yet another reason why it’s ridiculous to me that the MTA is still a New York State agency. It should be controlled by the City.
Q: I didn’t see any updates from Mayor de Blasio either.
A: Maybe Governor Cuomo told him to sleep in, too. The City made an announcement just past 7:30 am that the roads would be open–and taxi service could resume–which meant you could plan to take a taxi to work. But absolutely zero word on when public transit would be open until the governor’s rambly press conference at 8 am. Taxis aren’t cheap.
Q: You thought 9 am was too late to open up NYC Transit?
A: I think someone could’ve made the call earlier, had they been awake like all the emergency workers out there. A lot of workers don’t get paid snow days–remember, paid sick leave is a pretty new thing for this City, and it sets us apart from the rest of the country that isn’t guaranteed it. But a lot of people don’t get paid when they can’t get to work. We paid a lot of hard-working public servants to keep the City functioning last night. The least our mayor and governor could do is to monitor the situation hour by hour, make decisions accordingly, and inform citizens of what their options are for getting to work–especially the wage-an-hour laborers who do all the thankless jobs we take for granted in our daily lives, and who may be living paycheck to paycheck. Why make everyone wait until Governor Cuomo feels like waking up for a press conference?
Q: Did you take the subway at 9 am?
A: No. I made breakfast first. I didn’t fight the panicked crowds at the grocery store yesterday for nothing.