Although some New Yorkers seem to be vaguely disappointed that Hurricane Irene did not inflict more damage, New York City Mayor Bloomberg's preemptive decisions to order evacuations and shut down the mass transit system have been largely supported in hindsight, though Irene gave the city a more watered-down lashing than was expected.
When asked by Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television's InsideTrack if he felt Bloomberg's precautionary measures were over the top, former FEMA deputy chief of staff Mark Merrit responded firmly in support of the evacuation order.
It's absolutely not an exaggeration. It was definitely the right thing to do, Merrit said. For those people who are second-guessing Mayor Bloomberg and the other local elected officials who made those calls, the one thing I have to say to them is at least they're alive to second-guess that decision. If you've seen as many disasters as I have...and the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, I bet they wish their mayor had called an evacuation a lot sooner.
Only half of those ordered to evacuate complied with the directive, and their refusal to leave does not appear to have jeapordized the safety of fellow New Yorkers. All residents within the mandatory evacuation zone were permitted to return to their homes on 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after they were ordered to leave, though evacuees were warned it could be days before they could return to their homes.
Underpromise and overdeliver was the name of the game as far as New York City officials were concerned this weekend. Commuters who went to sleep Sunday night expecting a difficult or impossible commute the Monday morning -- per Bloomberg's caution -- were pleasantly surprised to find many subway lines running at full capacity and without delays, after the entire public transit system was shut down at noon on Saturday.
An IBTimes editor spotted Mayor Bloomberg himself riding the Lexington Avenue line Monday morning at about 6:45 a.m. One passenger on the near-empty train reportedly approached Bloomberg to thank him for issuing the evacuation order, to which the mayor responded with a good-natured joke about the Mets game being cancelled. Although there was plenty of available seating in the subway car, Bloomberg remained standing during the ride, while reading the New York Post.
Although the regular workweek was unaffected by the subway shutdown, economic losses over the weekend could prove to be staggering. All Broadway theatres were dark this weekend, and many retail and food service businesses were shut down. Among businesses that did stay open, the lack of public transportation severely impacted profits. Peter Morici, a business school professor at the University of Maryland, told The New York Times that the loss of recreational revenue dollars combined with storm damage could have cost the city $6 billion.
Some anonymous New Yorkers (and non-New Yorkers) were critical of Bloomberg's decision in their online comments to a New York Times article that surveyed Irene's damage (or lack of) in the immediate aftermath.
In NYC storm Bloomberg looks to have been more harmful than storm Irene. Irene wouldn't have caused evacuation of 300K New Yorkers, loss of all NYC mass transit for probably >36 hours, shutting down of the vast majority of business for the whole weekend, nor mandatory shutdown of elevator service in high rises. Irene did do some damage (60K with loss of power in NYC), but I'm not sure the medicine wasn't even more harmful than the storm, wrote Salamander, from Boston, Mass.
Mike C. of Tribeca had more of a glass half full approach: Bloomberg will be accused of overreacting, but so far I think he was right overall about being prepared for the worst. His call for mass evacuations of Zone A areas appears to have been a dud with the public...on the bright side, over the past few days the NY media has been talking for once about other neighborhoods besides the Upper West and East sides, Chelsea and Park Slope.
HHS of Los Angeles, Calif., urged naysayers to count their blessings. Unfortunately human nature is such that people will complain and blame the authorities for taking precautions, based on the information available, when the situation does not turn out as bad, but they will also complain and blame the authorities if the situation turns out worse than expected. Why can't people be grateful that the storm did not do as much damage as it could have done, that most people and property have been spared?
Gothamite01 of New York City felt Bloomberg's response was adequate, but questioned his presumption that weekend workers could access alternate transportation with the subways down: ...when questioned about the wisdom of shutting down the transit system, when asked how people were supposed to get to work without public transportation, Bloomberg's elitist response was to say New Yorkers could walk to get a cab. FYI, public transportation is absolutely vital for New Yorkers who live in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Outside of Manhattan, you can't just walk to the corner and hail a taxi. If you somehow could find one, it would cost at least $20/one way to get into 'the city'; a minimum of $40/day (unreimbursed) to commute to & from work is unacceptable.
New Yorkers are hard to impress, commented John Savage of Syracuse, N.Y. Do you have such a high threshold for stimulation that you want the worst case to develop?
Mayor Bloomberg, for the record, is not apologizing. We were unwilling to risk the life of a single New Yorker, he said in a news conference Sunday. The bottom line is that I would make the same decisions again, without hesitation. We can't just, when a hurricane is coming, get out of the way and hope for the best.