Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dawn Zimmer Reflects on the Snow Storm and Administration's Response

Below is a note from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer reflecting on the snow storm and her Administration's response...............

Editor's Note: Change thats working needs to work better next snow storm
Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! I wish you and your family and friends all the very best in 2011.

Thanks for the many compliments on my last update, and my apologies if some of you felt overloaded by all the information that I packed into it. Next year, I’ll try to do more updates so I can keep them briefer.

I was surprised that some folks complimented “the writing of the person that wrote the update….” Just so you all know, that writer is me, often at 4:30 in the morning, and I take full responsibility for the content of these updates.

Learning from the Blizzard:

First, in case you missed my official statement from City Hall, I want tomake sure that everyone knows that our City workers including Environmental Services, the Police and Fire Dept., the Parking Utility and Emergency Management, have been working extremely hard under very difficult circumstances to clean up our city, and they are continuing to work through the nights to improve the cleanup of our city streets.

Yes, I recognize that there are definitely things that went right and things that went wrong. As with everything I do, I always believe that things can be done better with reflection and evaluation, and that’s what my Administration is doing with this storm.

I welcome your suggestions and any information you may have that can help me to fully evaluate all that happened during this storm so that my Administration can serve Hoboken residents much better the
next time around.

While there are many people working hard, there are unfortunately people out there that will do anything they can to undermine my Administration for political reasons. My job, no matter the challenges, is to plow ahead
through all the “naysayers” and stay focused on the job at hand.

The reality is that this was one of the worst storms in the history of Hoboken. The bigger the storm the bigger the task of digging out and those who say that Hoboken has experienced many such storms in the past are wrong. There have only been two larger snow storms in the last 100 years, so this was truly a "big one" that needs a name...As you all know, our wonderful urban environment is exactly that – a small space with essentially no room for two feet of snow.

Our biggest snow challenges:

Where do we put all this snow? With all the packed cars, and parking such a challenge, how do I convince an entire town to move their cars off the street and enable us to fully clean up? And how do I prevent people from trying to move their cars in the middle of a storm, and then leaving them abandoned when they figure out their mistake in trying to drive? (I am not making excuses, but it is important for you to know that all of the abandoned cars in the middle of the streets throughout our City made the clean up excruciatingly difficult for our City employees. Next time we will be much more prepared for dealing with the abundance of abandoned cars that
resulted from this storm).

During the storm we had to bring in a towing company with larger equipment that could remove the cars in such high levels of snow. I am currently working on negotiating a new emergency contract that can boost our existing
outsourcing. In addition, we are re-evaluating the best locations to dump snow. (FYI – it is illegal to dump snow into the Hudson, and the issue presents challenges to negotiating with private property owners for dumping snow on undeveloped property).

To Tow or Not to Tow - That is the Question:

With each storm, I have tried to be sensitive to the challenges of finding parking and refrain from towing if at all possible. We always run license plates and call car owners before we tow. All of this takes a great deal of
manpower and time.

Going forward, I believe I’ve got to be stricter with towing. As I reflect on this storm, my Administration waited too long to begin the towing, and we ended up with emergency routes that were not cleared quickly enough and could not be navigated by our emergency vehicles. While I feel for those that may be towed, it is my job to look out for the welfare of everyone in Hoboken. I want to keep everyone safe, and if we have a situation that prevents a fire truck from getting to a fire, or an ambulance from reaching the hospital, then I will have failed in my job to protect all Hoboken residents. (For safety reasons Chief Blohm, Chief Falco and I decided yesterday that it was necessary to tow on Willow Avenue to improve access to the hospital).

For everyone’s protection in Hoboken, please spread the word that the mayor is going to be tow-tough during the next storm and will be towing from emergency routes. Since storms are unpredictable this means that with
20/20 hindsight the towing may sometimes appear to be unnecessary, but I'd rather inconvenience a few people than lose a life. (During each storm we announce our emergency routes again and again. Please heed these
announcements and know that it includes both sides of Washington Street, and the west side of Willow Avenue for access to the hospital, among other locations).

Free Parking:

Yes, it’s an uphill battle, but I am working very hard to secure as much free off-street parking as I can. I want to thank Superintendent Carter and School Board President Rose Markle for agreeing for the city to use the Connors school parking lot at 201 Monroe as a free parking location through Sunday at noon on a first come first serve basis. Thank you to CVS as well for permitting residents to park overnight last night for free.

We are working on some other options, so check the City’s site for more  information at The more cars we get off the streets, the more we can clean up the streets! For the next storm, I hope to be more prepared with back up off-street parking locations.

In addition, given these extenuating circumstances, residents can park in Garage B and D for $5.00 until Monday at 8:00 am.

Helping with the snow cleanup: Please try to remove your car from the street, and as you do it, please try to pile the snow next to the road and  refrain from throwing it back into the street. And, please, please do not
throw snow on the fire hydrants.

The Mayor on Vacation?:

It’s funny to think that I was feeling like a bit  of a work-a-holic as I had the last light on at  City Hall on Thursday night before Christmas.  (I let employees leave at 2:30).

I love my job, but it is hard to get away from our great City! I am glad to say that I had a  wonderful Christmas with my family in NH. I was thrilled to go for an exhilarating hike to an icy waterfall on Sunday with my parents, and my brothers and their families. (Ice is so cool!) I had planned to take only one day off and drive back on Monday morning, but the storm made it impossible, and so I was on the road with what seemed like everyone else on the east coast driving back from NH on Tuesday.

My time in NH was great, but it was filled with many calls with my business administrator, Arch Liston. One time he called and my mom answered and said, “I wish we had all the snow that Hoboken has….” As you can imagine, he quickly agreed!

The issue with the 911 Call system:

On Monday night a concerned citizen alerted me to the problems Hoboken was having with 911. She called 911 herself to report a fire alarm at the library and had problems getting through. (The library was fine, but the
911 system was not). I immediately contacted the Police and Fire Chiefs, my BA, and I want to thank Freeholder Romano for working with me to get information on the matter from the Chief of the Hudson County Sheriff’s
office. Through various sources we confirmed that this was a problem that Verizon was having, and that they were repairing the system as quickly as possible.

While Hoboken was at the mercy of Verizon to do the repairs, it was my obligation to inform the public and that’s why we issued a press statement to alert residents to call the Hoboken Police dispatch directly. I am asking for an investigation into what happened, why the City was not informed on the matter, and whether or not this happened in other Hudson County municipalities. I was also surprised that Verizon publicly stated that the problem was not their responsibility at a time when they were already working on correcting the problem with their system.


Again, thanks to all the Good Samaritans of Hoboken who helped out friends and strangers alike during the storm. I am sure that this email list includes many of those Hoboken saints that make our community so special.

Best wishes for a spectacular New Year! And please feel free to send your suggestions and/or information you may have to help me evaluate how I can improve our City's snow response. If you witnessed issues of concern, such as trucks driving with their plow blades up, please let me know so I can investigate to determine whether or not this was appropriate under the circumstances.

Have a happy and safe New Year!

-Mayor Zimmer

P.S. The hospital board meeting was moved to next Tuesday, January 4th. ◦