Mayor’s allies give little shelter from the storm
Even as Bill de Blasio made an impassioned case for why he kept schools open in yesterday's snowstorm, some of the mayor's closest allies criticized his decision.
Public Advocate Letitia James pushed his administration to excuse absences, even after schools chancellor Carmen Fariña said missed days would be officially recorded, though late arrivals would be accepted.
"It is clear that a re-evaluation of the criteria for closing New York City schools is needed after today's storm," James said in a prepared statement. "We must adjust the standards so that students, teachers, administrators and parents are not put in harm's way."
She said she was "particularly concerned" about the dangerous road conditions in the evening.
"It is important that school absence are excused, and that city workers are excused for lateness connected to their commute," she added.
James has long been close to de Blasio's and notably avoided criticizing him this week over his call to NYPD when a politically connected bishop was arrested.
Other of his political friends struck a similar tone.
"Hindsight is 20/20. Moving forward, there needs to be a better system for communicating with all stakeholders - parents, teachers and administration - when inclement weather is upon us," said city Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Even one of de Blasio's closest allies, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, said she believed closing schools would have been "warranted" in a brief statement her spokesman emailed.
"Closing schools is a very difficult and serious decision to make and I believe in this instance it was warranted," she said.
Earlier in the day she ducked reporters who asked her after an event she attended about school closures.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer would not question de Blasio's decision on schools, but did take issue with Farina's comment that Thursday was a "beautiful day."
Farina made the comment while explaining her decision to keep schools open--a call she made late Wednesday night, before snow began falling.
"I've been in a lot of piles of wet curbs. My feet are soaked," Brewer said. "I know what I experienced. It's not a beautiful day."
When asked to expand on her word choice, Farina, standing beside the mayor at a press briefing on the storm, said the snow had stopped, temperatures were climbing and New Yorkers were outside.
"It's obviously not as nice as it is where my husband is in South Beach, but it's a lot better than it was before," she said at about 12 p.m.
She hinted that the city would consider a new protocol to better inform parents on snow-day decisions.
De Blasio was pelted with a barrage of press inquiries, including why schools were kept open as he warned New Yorkers to stay off the roads.
He defended the decision in part on the grounds that parents who have to work rely on schools being open.
"Based on our knowledge of what [the sanitation department] could do overnight, we were convinced that kids could get to school this morning," he said. "So many families depend on the schools as a place for their kids to be during the day, a safe place where they not only are taught but they get nutrition and they are safe from the elements. So many of these families have to go to work—they do not have a choice."
In addition to elected officials, de Blasio also took heat from United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who kicked off the torrent of criticism by saying it was a "mistake" for the administration to not close schools.
"Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted," Mulgrew said.
City Councilman Mark Weprin, a Queens Democrat, said he received "a lot of complaints" about schools staying open.
Weprin recommended implementing a "hybrid snow day that the schools are open but you won't be penalized if you don't go to school."