By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina faced a torrent of criticism from elected officials, teachers and others for their decision to keep the public schools open on Thursday as a major snow storm hit the city.
“It’s like a blizzard out there today. The city has got it totally wrong. It was a misguided decision,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) told the Brooklyn Eagle.
De Blasio announced at 11 p.m. on Wednesday that schools would be open on Thursday, despite the forecast of a nor’easter that was expected to dump between 6 and 10 inches of snow on the city and despite strong winds.
Farina issued an alert early Thursday morning announcing that schools were open but that after-school and sports activities would be canceled. “Due to inclement weather conditions, all student after-school and PSAL activities are canceled today, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. Schools are open. Parents, as always, should exercise their own judgment with regard to their children. Safety is a top priority for the department,” the alert read.
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm blasted the decision to keep the schools open. “I am still struck by the irresponsibility of the mayor's decision to tell New Yorkers to stay off unsafe roads but to still expect them to get to school this morning. It affects not only school children and concerned parents, but the thousands of hardworking public school teachers and bus drivers who have to put their safety at risk as well,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island) urged his constituents to “consider their safety first before deciding whether or not to go out on the roads today.”
Bay Ridge resident John Quaglione also took to Facebook to express his frustration. “How does the mayor's son get to school?” he wrote. “He is no longer thinking like a parent in my opinion.”
Teachers were also upset. United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew issued a statement in which he called the mayor’s decision a mistake. "I understand the desire to keep schools open. The only thing that trumps that is safety. Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted. It was a mistake to open schools today," he said.
"The visibility and weather conditions are very poor and the safety of New York's students should be paramount when making a decision on school closures. Keeping schools open and expecting children to travel through heavy snow, sleet and ice at the same time the city is urging residents to stay off the road is nonsensical,” Malliotakis said.
Critics of the mayor said the decision not to close the schools was puzzling, especially in light of the fact that Governor Andrew Cuomo was taking the storm seriously. Cuomo had declared a state of emergency.
“I urge all New Yorkers to take appropriate steps to prepare for the storm, check on their families and friends, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, and to avoid any unnecessary travel. The best way to stay informed is to pay attention to local media outlets and heed any advice from local professional emergency management personnel,” the governor said in a statement.
But de Blasio defended the decision at a briefing he had to update the media on the city's response to the snow storm. The mayor said that parents depend on city schools to keep their children safe and that many of those parents had no option but to go to work themselves.
The mayor also pointed out that as much as they are desired by kids, snow days are extremely rare. in the city There have only been 11 snow days in the city since 1978. “It is a rarity. Something we do not do lightly," he said.
Meanwhile, the nor’easter caused the cancellation of meetings and activities planned by civic and political groups in southern Brooklyn.
The Bay Ridge Democrats had been scheduled to hold a forum on, of all things, climate change Thursday night. It was canceled. “While we appreciate the terrific irony of being forced to cancel a climate change forum due to a snowstorm, we wanted to err on the side of caution,” Justin Brannan, the club’s president, said.
Community Board 11 (Bensonhurst-Bath Beach) canceled its monthly meeting which had been scheduled for Thursday.