Common Sense: Snow job

There really seems to be something  truly dysfunctional  about a government in which the governor shuts down the largest mass transit system in the world and gives the mayor of the city it serves no notice.

I am certainly no fan of the governing style of either of them, but on this one the mayor has a legitimate gripe. And to add insult to injury, there seems to be evidence that Governor Cuomo was acting more out of an abundance of interest in taking center stage than an abundance of caution since he apparently made the decision to close the system without consulting with anyone including the head of the MTA.

The governor received many compliments for his handling of the five feet-plus snow event and melting in Buffalo in December. I suspect he was attempting to duplicate this success by demonstrating what would be in his view strong leadership. I think he came out of it looking like he should have left more of the decision process to local officials including transit experts.

Clearly many New Yorkers were scratching their heads when they heard that the subways were closing at 11 p.m. the night of the snowstorm. As primarily an underground system designed to operate in severe snow conditions that had never in its entire history entirely closed for a snow event, one could only conclude that the city must be heading for  the weather equivalent of Armageddon.

Yet weather  as severe as the original reports indicated still would not have caused any seasoned New Yorker to expect a system-wide subway suspension. And as it turned out, the system needed to keep on running throughout the night with “ghost trains” in order for the tracks to remain clear so the system could be efficiently started up again.

Afterwards, when the storm did not materialize as expected, the governor, mayor and MTA  indicated that they had no regrets. What else could they say? Would it not be nice if on occasion government officials and agencies simply admitted that they were wrong. I think the public would have more respect for them if they sometimes did. I know I would.

On a more positive note, the New York City Department of Sanitation deserves credit for implementing a very efficient and successful plowing and salting operation. Although no snow clean-up is problem-free, I found Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights streets — including side streets — in drivable condition quickly after the snow stopped falling. And, in fact, throughout the night of the storm, I heard plows moving through Dyker Heights streets many times on the hour.

Like many Catholics, I have found the shuttering of so many parishes by the Archdiocese of New York troubling. The Archdiocese which covers the city exclusive of Brooklyn and Queens certainly had cause to realign around changing demographics which have resulted in many churches being underutilized.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a number of parishes which found themselves on the list even though their attendance remains strong and/or their mission is such that a closing leaves a true void.

I find the issue complicated by what appears to be essentially no manageable appeals process   of a closing (beyond begging) within the Catholic Church. Frankly, you would have more success appealing a decision by the Defense Department’s Base Closing Commission than a decision by the Archdiocese.

What also seems to be causing a lot of head-scratching is that the closings were announced as the enormously expensive renovation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was nearing conclusion. Much of the donations for the cathedral renovations came from contributions earmarked exclusively for that purpose. Nevertheless, regardless of being justified, there are some that question the heavy financial expenditure  on St. Patrick’s  Cathedral when some parishes were being closed primarily because they had become too expensive to maintain.

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