Transcript: Mayor Adams Briefs Media on Preparations for Expected Winter Weather

February 12, 2024

Video available at: https://youtu.be/uGpkdeNeUuw

 

Commissioner Jessica Tisch, Department of Sanitation: Good afternoon, everyone. We are here to provide a briefing on winter weather that we are expecting to impact New York City tomorrow, Tuesday, February 13th. To kick us off, I’d like to welcome our mayor, Eric Adams. 
 

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thanks so much for everyone being here, and I really want to thank the team. I started out this morning being briefed; actually, last week [the] chief of staff told me we were looking to have this weather come in and the team started to prepare. There [have] been various shifts around 6:40, this morning we got an update and immediately started to make the necessary adjustments. Communicated with the chancellor this morning as well, and he started the operation of dealing with remote learning for our children. 
 

You know, we’ve been fortunate. You know, let’s be clear, we have not had any significant snowfall for quite some time; in fact, it was amazing how little salt we had to use last year. But you know, the time has come, you know, Mother Nature does what she wants to do. And I really want to thank the commissioner, Commissioner Tisch and her team for their just rapid response and coordination with all the agencies involved. 
 

We’re expecting snow across the city tonight and into tomorrow. The current forecast calls for light rain beginning around midnight and transitioning to snow tomorrow morning. We expect at least five to eight inches now, we could get more. As the forecast continues to shift, we will continue to notify New Yorkers. 
 

It’s going to be low visibility, high wind gusts ending by early afternoon as well as up to two feet of coastal flooding along vulnerable shorelines. We’re taking this storm extremely, extremely serious. We want New Yorkers to be prepared and we want New Yorkers to do the same. 
 

We expect slippery roads and limited visibility, and so we’re strongly encouraging New Yorkers, if you don’t have to go out, stay home. And please use public transportation, we want to minimize the number of vehicles on the road so that our apparatus and vehicles can actually deal with the removal of snow and make our movement in the city more feasible. 
 

Our team has also been coordinating closely with the governor’s team, Governor Hochul’s team, in advance of the storm. All relevant city agencies have been activated and preparations are underway. 
Salt spreaders and plows are ready to go; and again, just really want to commend DSNY, the entire team. They’re ready, they’re prepared, and the commissioner is going to coordinate their efforts with our other city agencies. And so we’re doing everything in our power to keep New Yorkers safe. We want New Yorkers to do everything in their power to continue to be safe by, again, staying off the road, and signing up for NotifyNYC to keep updated on winter weather. 
 

City services will continue to be available for New Yorkers tomorrow, and we will continue to serve the city. We will not be conducting any outdoor events; and again, our public schools are closed tomorrow. They will, actually we’re doing remote learning. It’s going to be a remote learning day. That’s one of the things that came out of Covid‑19, we could continue the educational process of our children so they will be learning remotely. 
 

Alternate side of the street parking has been canceled for tomorrow, and we do have a Code Blue has been issued for unsheltered New Yorkers. If you see someone in need, please call 311 or 911 as appropriate; and check on neighbors, as always, to make sure that we can be good neighbors for each other. I know New Yorkers will be ready. We’ll be ready, but no matter what, stay warm. 
 

We have an election tomorrow. Poll sites are open. The poll sites for the elections will be open in Queens and in the Bronx. Commissioner? 
 

Commissioner Tisch: Thank you, Mayor Adams. You’re going to get a more complete weather briefing from Commissioner Iscol in a few, but I will give you some of the highlights that the mayor has already touched on. 
 

We are expecting winter weather in New York City tomorrow. It will begin as rain around midnight and it will rain for a few hours. We expect the transition to snow to happen between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. 
 

There can be periods of very heavy snow, so we’re expecting one to two inches of snow per hour for several hours in the morning; so as the mayor said, staying off the roads is very important. We expect the storm to taper off in the afternoon. Right now it’s looking like it’ll be between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. 
 

And of course, all of this is subject to change. We have seen this storm change a lot over the past 24 hours, so we’re going to continue to keep our eye on it and brief New Yorkers as necessary. 
So, beginning on our midnight shift tonight, thousands of New York City sanitation workers will be putting salt on every street, every highway, every bike lane in the city, and we will be prepared to plow every street, every highway and every bike lane as soon as accumulations hit two inches or more. 
 

The operation will continue until all streets are clear, which will likely be hours after the last flakes fall. We have a huge fleet of snow fighting equipment at our disposal, over 700 salt spreaders and over 2,000 plows. 
 

Gone are the days of primary, secondary and tertiary streets for salt spreading and plowing purposes; now every street in the city is on a route, and every route can be dispatched at the same time. This is what the mayor has referred to as “plowing equity” in New York City. 
 

A reminder to New Yorkers that a plowed street does not immediately show blacktop, so please be patient as our plows come through and let them do their thing. Once plowing operations cease, we will turn our attention to clearing pedestrian infrastructure like crosswalks and curb cuts. 
 

Now we have a number of things working in our favor this year in New York City. First, we have the highest uniform headcount of sanitation workers that this department has seen in over two decades. We have also made substantial investments in our fleet, including our snow fighting vehicles. We spent about half a billion dollars over the past year on the upgrades to our fleet. 
 

And we also have new GPS technology, it’s called BladeRunner 2.0 that allows us to surgically manage our salt spreading and our plowing operations. So, our supervisors in the field from their smartphones and us at headquarters, we can see every street in the city, what has been plowed, what has been salted, what we may have missed, and then we can direct resources accordingly. 
 

To aid our operations tomorrow, we are asking New Yorkers to stay off the roads. Our salt spreaders and our plows can cover a whole lot more ground a lot faster if there are not other vehicles in their way. To that end, we have canceled alternate side parking for tomorrow, although meters remain in effect. 
 

An important reminder to property owners. While we got the streets, we got the highways and we got the bike lanes, property owners are responsible for clearing snow and ice from the sidewalks. We saw in the last two snow events in New York City that the streets were very clear, but the sidewalks were pretty treacherous. 
 

We don’t like to enforce these… We don’t like to issue summonses and do enforcement, but we are prepared to enforce these very basic safety rules in New York City tomorrow to make sure that our sidewalks are clear and are passable. I am now going to turn it over to our commissioner of Emergency Management, Zach Iscol. 
 

Commissioner Zach Iscol, New York City Emergency Management: Thanks so much Commissioner Tisch, Mr. Mayor. Always wonderful to be here with you guys. And just to start, a heartfelt thank you to all of our incredible crews who will be working tirelessly throughout tonight and the next few days to keep us safe. 
 

These dedicated professionals, including police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, sanitation workers and many others are really the backbone of our city’s resilience in the face of adverse weather conditions. Their commitment to New Yorkers really knows no bounds, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the work they’ll be doing tonight and throughout the day tomorrow around the clock. So, thank you. 
 

In terms of the forecast, as the mayor, as Commissioner Tisch said, we’re expecting five to eight inches of snow. We’ll start with rain around midnight tonight with a shift to snow some time in the early mornings. We could see rates of one to two inches per hour. This could lead to difficult travel and low visibility for the morning commute. 
 

Now, in advance of this, the National Weather Service has put out a winter weather advisory. We have issued a travel advisory for tonight through tomorrow. We do expect travel delays tomorrow citywide, so we encourage everybody to stay off the road, keep themselves safe, but also really importantly to allow sanitation crews to do their job of clearing the snow and to allow first responders, police, firefighters, EMS to get around the city should they need to. 
 

We activated this morning our winter weather emergency plan. That means we now start coordinating with a number of agencies including sanitation, Department of Education, DEP, DOT transportation, environmental protection, a host of others including state partners, 311, Port Authority, MTA and others to make sure that we’re prepared for this winter weather. 
 

Timeline, as I mentioned, one of the things that we are looking at this storm is right now there is low confidence in the forecast. That means we could see more snow or it means we could see less snow. That really will depend upon when the shift occurs from rain to snow. If it occurs earlier, we’ll see more snow; if it occurs later, we’ll see less snow. 
 

We’re also looking at how the snow bands tomorrow will line up. Those snow bands, we can’t really track until we’re about an hour out, and so if we see some heavy snow bands coming into the city, that means we could see higher rates of snow. It means we could see higher rates and amounts throughout the city, but we won’t know until tomorrow. 
 

It’s also possible that we see less snow than currently forecast. As Commissioner Tisch said, this forecast has really changed. Yesterday, we were expecting about an inch of snow; right now, we’re looking at five to eight inches. So, it is incredibly important for all New Yorkers to stay informed. Make sure that you are monitoring the forecast. Make sure that you sign up for NotifyNYC, available in 14 languages, over a million subscribers available by calling 311, by downloading the app, or by going to nyc.gov/notify to make sure you have the most relevant information. 
 

The other thing I want to flag is with the forecast, there’s always multiple hazards that we need to be aware of, and one of the places people often get in trouble is when we look at one hazard, snow, and we don’t pay attention to the other ones. 
 

So, there are potentials with high gusts of winds tomorrow in combination with the snow of leading to reduced visibility that could really impact roadways. The other thing that we’re looking at is potential for minor to moderate coastal flooding in and around Jamaica Bay, parts of the sound. So, that’s areas like Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach, parts of the Rockaways, up to City Island. We’re looking at that really in local areas between 11:00 a.m. is the high tide mark, but that could continue on to about 2:00 p.m. So, really important that all New Yorkers are paying attention not just to the snow, but the other hazards. 
 

There’s also potential disruptions to the evening commute as there are remnants of slick roads and precipitation on those roads. So, be careful even after the snow stops. 
Couple of last things, Code Blue, Enhanced Code Blue is in effect, so as the mayor said, if you see a homeless New Yorker, if you see somebody vulnerable, please call 311 or 911. We have teams that will be going out to try and get our most vulnerable off the streets. 
 

And then as the mayor said, tomorrow is also an election day. Always important for everybody to vote. We have 46 polling locations that will be open in the Bronx and Queens, 38 of them are public schools, two are NYCHA facilities, six are private facilities. We are working very, very closely with elections to make sure that those sites are open and running, that we’ll be salting, that we’ll be shoveling. 
 

And want to just give a big shout out and thanks to the election workers who will be going out early in the morning at 5:00 a.m. to make sure. sure that those sites are open. Finally, make sure you’re monitoring the forecast; and again, we’ll always be pitching NotifyNYC. Thanks so much, and back over to you, Commissioner Tisch. 
 

Commissioner Tisch: Thank you, Commissioner Iscol. Next we will hear from our schools chancellor, Chancellor Banks. 
 

Chancellor David Banks, Department of Education: Thank you so much, commissioner, and good afternoon, everyone. So, yes, schools will be, we’re not saying closed tomorrow, schools are shifting to remote learning. And that’s an important distinction. When we say schools are closed and then officially that does not count as a day for us as relates to state law. 
 

Our schools are still in session, just differently, and so the long gone are the days of just a snow day and everybody just has off. So, we’re going to have a big snowstorm, most likely, but our students, we expect for them to be fully engaged. It is important to note, it is what we refer to as a synchronous day, school day. 
 

What that means is that if your child is, as an example, in the third grade, they will show up online with their teacher at the same time that they would normally do it in school and have a regular session of school and simulated much in the way that it would be as if they were already in school. 
 

So, the mayor and I spoke early this morning and he gave the word that we should start the preparation. We notified all of our superintendents, our principals, our teachers have now all been notified, and parents are being notified in real time as we speak. 
 

And one of the things that was most important that I shared with the mayor was that in order to do this effectively for a school system this large, you need as much time to prepare and to be ready and to let parents know so that they can be ahead of the game. That’s why we’re really happy to have this press conference here at this moment. 
 

So, we will have no school tomorrow during the day. We will have no after‑school programs that are taking place tomorrow. We’re certainly hopeful that we will be back in sound order the following day and ready to go. 
 

But we feel really good about this. We’ve taken some time as a school system to do simulations and to prepare for this. And it’s one of the good things that, in fact, emerged from the pandemic, was our preparedness to be ready for moments like this. And I think the school system is more than prepared. We’ll be assessing our effectiveness every step of the way. 
 

And I’m really just thrilled also with Commissioner Iscol who keeps all the city agencies informed with a heads up, and beyond thrilled with Commissioner Tisch, who I don’t think this city’s ever been more prepared than her and her leadership and her team to prepare for a snowstorm. 
 

And so let’s get ready. It’s going to be an exciting day tomorrow. We wanted to make sure that we kept everyone safe, that’s the number one thing. We did not want kids to be stuck on buses and teachers having to make their way, particularly once the snowstorm happens, making their way even home. 
 

[As the] prediction is that it’s going to start in the morning and we didn’t want folks to wind up getting snowed in and being very unsafe. 
 

So, we’ve spoken with the teachers union, we’ve spoken with the principals union. Everybody said this is the right call to make. It gives everybody a chance to get out in front and start to get prepared and we’re ready. 
 

Mayor Adams: And again, thanks so much to my chief of staff who’s brought the whole team together and make sure the coordination was seamless as all the agencies that are involved are on alert on how we’re going to be prepared for tomorrow.  
 

Question: Hi, yes, a question about the schools closing [inaudible] late to be announcing that today? I mean, some parents [inaudible] two children, multiple kids, there’s [inaudible]. And why is it tomorrow is going to go remote [inaudible] last year schools didn’t go remote. Can you say why that’s been different [inaudible]. 
 

Mayor Adams: Well, first, no it’s not late. As we stated, I think 6:40 was it, Zach, 6:40 we got the update on what we were dealing with. And so immediately, we did not wait for the 12 noon press conference to notify parents, teachers, superintendents, principals. 
 

We spoke with the chancellor this morning and immediately shifted into gear. So, we wanted to give the maximum amount of time so we can prepare. Mother Nature shifts. This is not our call, it’s Mother Nature’s call. And as soon as we can make the right call and not a premature call, we did so. And kudos to making it earlier to give parents and families the maximum amount of time. 
 

When it comes down to why we didn’t close on a rain day in comparison to now, these are the calls we make. We sit down with the entire team and say, are we had a weather point where we need to close schools. We did not believe we were at that point when it was raining just as we didn’t believe back during Covid that we should close schools. 
 

We make the call based on the safety, preparation and the ability to our children and families to get to the school, and we make the call the best, the best way we can, and we did it the right way this time. 
 

Yes, um‑hmm. Hold on one moment. Charles. 
 

Commissioner Iscol: Sorry, just one thing to add to that. I think one thing that also just needs to be brought up and the mayor touched on this as well, is there’s a big difference between forecasting for rain versus forecasting for snow. 
 

Snow generally— and I put a lot of emphasis on that word “generally,” you have a little bit more lead time in terms of the forecast. Rain is much more difficult to forecast than [snow], but as the mayor said, you know, it’s also different impacts in terms of the potential threats to kids. 
 

This one is something that was made incredibly early. Usually in the past, that decision to go remote or that decision to cancel school is usually made the morning of; and again, that’s because of the constraints of the forecast. 
 

Question: Mayor, why do the children of New York City today not get to experience what young Eric Adams… [inaudible] just a snow day. Why can you not just say tomorrow is a snow day? 
 

Mayor Adams: Well, several different reasons. That’s a great question, that one of the most important aspects of it is that we came into the school year with our children falling behind. Covid took months if not years away from the education and the socialization of our children.  
 

We need to minimize how many days our children are just sitting at home making snowmen like I did, and they need to catch up. You know, the chancellor has done an amazing job with outpacing the state in reading and math, and we don’t need to slow down. We need to keep our pedal, our foot on the pedal. 
 

And so whenever we can use technology to do so, we’re going to do so. I did not have Internet or remote learning as a child. I wish we would have. But we have it, we better use it, because we have to catch up and exceed where we are. 
 

Question: To that effect,[inaudible] for the chancellor really quick. There are already some message boards among parents who are saying, I’m not [going] through this, they can’t log on to the zoom, they can’t look over here, they’re getting certain PTSD for what happened during the pandemic. So, are you giving them any kind of chancellor’s permission at a certain point if it doesn’t work tomorrow to take the kids out to Prospect… 
 

Chancellor Banks: You’re really trying to get in that park to just have a regular… .snow day in NYC, I see, yes. Listen, the goal here is for us to effectively be able to deliver instruction for our kids, as the mayor said. Whenever you’re dealing with technology in a system this large, there are always glitches. We want to minimize those glitches because we want our students engaged. 
 

And you know, by three o ‘clock, the school day is over and they have plenty of time to get out in the snow and still have some fun. So, we don’t want the kids to not have fun, right? I’m not a Grinch. 
But we do want them to be able to be actively engaged in school and get the most out of it. And the goal is to really make sure that we’re getting it right. And when there are some glitches, we’ll have help centers and whatnot to help get our parents through. 
 

Question: Zach, are you planning to.. 
 

Mayor Adams: Hold on, hold on, hold on, because I want to…hold on. Hold on. I want to go back before Zach, touch on this. 
Listen, snow days, my mother had to walk us to school with her arthritic knees. If you are a parent and you are a parent and you are not willing to navigate a computer for your child, that’s a sad commentary. That’s a sad commentary. 
 

Clicking on, figuring out how to navigate that, using it as a teaching moment on how to get it online and how to get it up, showing our children that difficulties come and we overcome that, that is what it’s all about. 
 

So, you can’t tell me that Mommy took me to school with her arthritic knees in a snow day and you are frustrated by [logging] onto a computer. That’s not acceptable to me. Our children must learn. They fell behind. We need to catch up. That is what we need to be focusing on. Zach? 
 

Question: Yes, Zach, are you thinking about relocating the migrants at Floyd Bennett Field or any of the outdoor locations? 
 

Commissioner Iscol: We are not. Those structures, the reason we evacuated in the past is because of high winds. We haven’t hit any of those triggers. There’s no concerns for flooding. We have a snow removal plan in place. 
 

And as we said before, those structures are designed to handle inclement weather, right? So, the rooftops are at a certain pitch that the snow comes off. They’re also kept at a certain temperature that when snow hits it, it melts. 
 

Should we get really heavy snow, we have large rakes we can use to remove the snow from the tops of the tents. We have a snow removal plan to be able to remove snow from the grounds. But there’s no need or no plans at this time to have to evacuate Floyd Bennett Field or any other tent facilities. 
 

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. 
 

Mayor Adams: How are you? 
 

Question: [inaudible] the opposite question. 
 

Mayor Adams: Yes. 
 

Question: Since the weather, I mean, there’s a lot of uncertainty, why can’t you call to close schools [and so] early, why not wait until…we still have a couple [inaudible] to make the announcement maybe after five, parents could still have time to [work it] [inaudible] daycare, there’s free breakfast, free lunch, many kids that’s their only meals of the day. I’m sure you’ve thought about those considerations.

And I just want to know, why so early? 
 

Mayor Adams: Well, you know, it took me over two years [to] reach a point where I can finally see a living example of what I stated, 8.3 million people, 35 million opinions. No matter what we do, there’s going to be this. 
 

And so what we must do is be leaders and make the call not based on the loud voices but based on our analysis of the circumstances that we are in, because if we close the school early or we close it late, there are going to be what you and Kelly has just went through. This is a team. We’ve got to make the right calls and we have to do what’s best for our students. 
 

I remember during Covid, everybody told us, close the schools, close the schools, close the schools. We did the analysis. It was a smart thing to do, it was the right thing to do. It was the safest place for our children at the time. We’re doing that once again right now. 
 

And so for those who said we should have closed it earlier, or those who said that we could have closed it late, you just reinforced, 8.3 million, 35 million opinions. 
 

Question: [Inaudible.] 
 

Mayor Adams: Yes, let me update the shooting. Okay, we had a shooting this afternoon, I mean, earlier in the day. It appears as though it’s still under investigation. I could only give you the preliminary facts that the leadership executive team gave me. 
 

There was a dispute, a domestic dispute appears to be between two brothers. The police officers responded. And when they entered the residence, one of the subjects had a gun pointed towards the police. It’s still being under investigation what the gun was. They discharged a round, struck him in the stomach, and now they’re getting a final analysis. It appears as though he’s likely, or he may have gone DOA while we’re here, but that’s still under investigation. 
 

There was no injury to police officers, and one officer went to medical treatment based on what’s normally the ringing in the ear that comes from after a discharge of that nature. But as we get more, we will update you and let you know more. 
 

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First appeared on www.nyc.gov

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