By David Cruz
“We were settling [in] for a snow storm and we got hit with a blizzard,” sighed Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose. Ambrose and Mayor Ras Baraka looked like weary prize fighters who had been taking it on the chin for 48 hours. At the city’s command center, they worked overtime to try to recover from 28 inches of snow when they were expecting half that. The mayor said Newark had to endure what most other major cities along the northeast were experiencing.
“We had 280 traffic weather-related incidents,” he recounted. “We had people stranded, we had car fires, which caused our fire trucks to go out and they, too, got stuck, and some police cars were stuck as well, so we had to change operations to begin to move all of those people. So we were really doing emergency kind of response for Saturday for the most part. Then we had to resume back to our normal plowing schedule, which slowed us down.”
The mayor said city plows were overwhelmed by the amount of snow, leading them to rely on dump trucks and front loaders, which slowed things down even more. Faced with a shortage of private contractors, the city called out to residents and business owners for help.
“This is not the work of the city,” shouted one man from a plow-equipped pickup. “This is private!”
Baraka said most major arteries were clear this morning but Market Street, downtown, looked like a mess most of the day. Residents — as you might expect — were apoplectic. On social media, where the hashtag #SideStreetsMatter was spreading, the mayor called for patience. The comments on his post were unforgiving and relentless.
“I have never ever seen such poorly cleaned streets in my entire life,” said one man.
“You should jump in the snow and hide ur head in embarrassment,” added another.
On the street today, it wasn’t much better.
“They’re doing a terrible job, a horrible job,” one man told us.
“The people don’t have nowhere to put the snow, so basically they have to either throw the snow back on the sidewalk or throw it back on the street and they’re not coming back and re-plowing the streets,” added another.
It was enough to make some residents remember the good old days when Mayor Cory Booker infamously led shovel crews throughout the city.
Baraka is not the first mayor to face criticism for his response to a weather crisis. While there may be time to clean up the political mess this has all caused, the mayor has a more immediate mess to handle.