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Why Subway Shutdown on NYC Supposed Blizzard Nite?

Monday’s predicted blizzard for NYC caused me more than a little cognitive dissonance over the state/city executive decision to shut down the subway system from between 11pm and 8am. It interfered with my own transportation needs for getting to and from work so I opted to lose a night’s pay in a work situation that was thankfully reasonable enough to grant me that. (Not generous enough to compensate me for such a formidable transportation challenge, mind you.)

As the week moves on, I have been hearing that the subway closure caused gratuitous stress for great numbers of people. I have run into retail workers and their managers who had to anxiously hustle their ways homeward via subway praying and racing against that 11pm deadline whereby the ENTIRE NYC subway service would turn into the proverbial pumpkin. It would be turned off completely rather than slowed or limited. From local news I became aware that the very emergency workers who were helping New York City cope with the snowstorm were themselves major victims of the subway closure. WTF?

I see it as once again top tier political authorities being clueless, indifferent and/or manipulative to and with the needs of working class Americans.

I just came across an article by Jerry White entitled “Politically driven hysteria over the New York City snowstorm that wasn’t”. White accuses state, local and regional authorities including NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, NJ Governor Chris Christie of fear-mongering with their declarations of a super-emergency and the “virtual lockdown” of us 8 million residents of New York City. These authorities are now asserting a “better safe than sorry” defense of their decisions after the storm clout proved minimal in the City itself. I also see these gentlemen using the storm for political grandstanding.

White explains that the histrionics of the authorities and the media caused a run on supermarkets and gas stations. Threats of fines and arrests for driving one’s car was also stressed on the media to residents. The National Guard was deployed in New York State. White sees this as an ominous pattern in “post-9/11 America.” Authorities and corporate media keep frightening Americans, utilizing whatever is convenient to do so, including the weather.

White:

This sensationalist storm chasing is in lieu of any serious analysis of world events and helps conceal how the decisions made by the ruling elite each day imperil the world’s people.

Then, with the utmost hypocrisy, the same politicians responsible for these antisocial policies—whether Cuomo, de Blasio, Christie or Obama—turn around and posture as defenders of “public safety.”

snip

Before any snow began to fall, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut then declared states of emergency and imposed travel bans affecting tens of millions of residents. ...

snip

By 6 p.m. Monday night, [NY Governor] Cuomo ordered the shutdown of all transportation, saying only emergency vehicles would be allowed on the streets of New York City—and roads in 13 state counties—as of 11 p.m. “If you violate this state order,” he said, “it’s a possible misdemeanor; it’s fines up to $300.” The governor also activated the New York National Guard, which dispatched 260 soldiers and airmen.

Apparently the chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Thomas Prendergast, had argued, “We’d be able to run trains.” Prendergast had explained that there would be no reason to close the subway system since the NYC subway system is mostly underground and protected from the snow.

White:

By 11 p.m., however, even as it was becoming apparent that the worst snowfall was well to the east and north of New York City, Cuomo, apparently without consulting with Mayor de Blasio or the New York City transit command center, went ahead and shut down the subway system, the only remaining transportation in the city.

This was the first time trains were halted because of snow in the 110-year history of the system, which serves more than four million commuters each day.

As it turned out, the subway system actually continued to run in order to keep the tracks clear, just without passengers.

After 110 years, the subway was totally shut down?

And this done by the governor without even consulting the mayor?

AND, to add insult to injury, the trains actually were run “to keep the tracks clear” but without passengers?

White quotes a “transit insider” who shared this with the Atlantic magazine:

“The closure will strand people and put lives at risk, not because the subways can’t run, but because Cuomo wants to look good, ... I think it’s a horrible, purely political decision, not based on anything that’s needed. It seemed like cutting out a necessary lifeline unnecessarily.”

So without buses, taxis, or subways late-shift workers were trapped with no way home, forced to spend the entire night at their workplaces or whatever shelters they could find.

White:

The following day, millions of New Yorkers woke up to a rather pleasant winter morning—with a few inches, not feet, of snow on the ground. While the travel ban was lifted at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, rail and subway service was running only on a limited basis and the streets remained largely deserted.

Schools did not reopen until Wednesday, when city and state workers also returned to work contemplating the loss of a day’s pay in one of most expensive places to live in the world.

White maintains that political authorities are most concerned with the needs of the elite residents of NYC and not so much the practical needs of those far lower down the economic ladder.

Every natural disaster uncovers the deep class chasm in America.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the city’s then-mayor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg and the utility giants made sure electricity was quickly restored to the New York Stock Exchange and the luxury high-rise apartments in Manhattan, while working-class and poor residents of the city were abandoned without water and electricity.

Aside from these considerations, the ruling class saw in the storm an opportunity to promote an atmosphere of hysteria and create new precedents for extraordinary state actions. Fearful of the eruption of popular opposition over the immense levels of social inequality and the retrograde policies of both big-business parties, the response of the political establishment to every potential disruption of the continued accumulation of wealth by the super-rich, even uncertain prospects of a heavy snowfall, is police state measures: lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, etc.

This week in New York City, we saw the methods of the “war on terror” deployed to fight snowflakes falling from the sky.

Is Jerry White taking the analysis way too far?

Or is he onto something in terms of a “learned helplessness” and “a state of chronic disorientation” and “cognitive dissonance” being cultivated by the political patriarchy and media within us -- us citizens whose basic needs are given less and less empathy and respect by the authorities, even though these same authorities insist through media that their decisions are made to honor and prioritize our needs?

I'm leaning to White's take, it helping to explain my own headache of cognitive dissonance over this IRL, NYC-home-hitting, pay-loss, patriarchal jerk-around.

[cross-posted on open salon]

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Submitted by lambert on

Pretty astonishing:

Gov. Cuomo decided to shut down NYC Transit subway and bus service on Monday ahead of an anticipated blizzard, which came as a surprise to transit workers and experts...and City officials. Cuomo told the press his office was "totally coordinated" with the mayor on the effort, but Mayor de Blasio disagrees: aides say he was only given between 15 and 30 minutes warning before Cuomo made the announcement at 4:45 p.m. on Monday.

"We did not get a lot of advance notice," de Blasio said yesterday at a City Hall press conference. "I think it was a very big move and certainly something we would have liked to have had some more dialogue on."

Yikes!

Submitted by jawbone on

Wow! Pretty astonishing and I find myself wondering if this was to make DeBlasio take the criticsm if turned out to not be necessary? I'm in WI right now and recall the BBC in wee hours referring to "Blizzard Bill" DeBlasio and making fun of HIS decision to close down the subway system.

I'd wondered prior to reading Libby's entry whether there was concern about sea water being washed into the subways. Seems not to have been an issue...?

And, in reports, I did not hear Cuomo's name mentioned in any connection with the subways by the vaunted free press, aka MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media).

What is with Cuomo?

Submitted by lambert on

It's good to see you again! How are you?

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

DeBlasio is no "populist." He's another Obama-Hilary-Booker neo-liberal con man. But yes, media in this case worked hard to cover for Andy Cuomo. He's just got more seniority in the State than deB (especially if you add on his Dad's tenure)!

Plus which, with the Sheldon Silver armageddon going down, media may be giving Cuomo his last few days of media coddling before things get really, really ugly for him.