Hours after brushing off complaints that snow-removal crews bungled the cleanup on Manhattan's Upper East Side from Tuesday's storm, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did an about-face Wednesday and conceded, "more could have been done."
His admission, which followed complaints that snow-clogged major thoroughfares in the area resulted in traffic paralysis, stood in contrast to his comments in the morning dismissing the criticism as "mistaken" and congratulating crews for a "helluva job."
As reporters relayed anecdotes from interviews and tweets of New Yorkers' snow woes, de Blasio responded that he had seen the bigger picture.
"The difference is, I get to hear the reports from all over the city . . . and I'm telling you based on everything I've heard, there was a very strong and consistent effort," he said.
But afterward, de Blasio visited the neighborhood -- a trip he didn't announce to the media -- to gather anecdotes and see the mess firsthand. At 5:22 p.m., he issued a statement: "While the overall storm response across the city was well-executed, after inspecting the area and listening to concerns from residents earlier today, I determined more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side."
He said he ordered the Sanitation Department to "double-down," deploying 30 vehicles and 40 sanitation laborers "to finish the cleanup."
Following the mea culpa, neither de Blasio's press aides nor the Sanitation Department would answer questions such as what exactly went wrong on the Upper East Side.
During Tuesday's afternoon and evening rush hour, travelers said gridlock was so bad that it often took an hour for cars, buses and taxis to travel a single block.
Conditions remained tough Wednesday, said City Councilman Dan Garodnick, a Democrat who represents the well-to-do neighborhood. "I was just there over the last hour and a half, and Madison and Park avenues, even right now -- midday, Wednesday -- were treacherous, and cars and people were slipping and sliding," Garodnick said.
Councilman Vincent M. Ignizio (R-Staten Island) said he wants the council to convene oversight hearings.
Back in 2010, then-Public Advocate de Blasio led cries for answers from the Bloomberg administration over a botched snow response.
Elsewhere in the city, the latest cleanup job got better reviews. Councilman David G. Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) said he was generally satisfied with plowing in his district -- Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst.
"We don't have perfect streets, and some of our streets obviously have slush, but in Manhattan they expect to be able to lick off the streets, and I think that's just not realistic, quite frankly," Greenfield said.