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For first disaster, de Blasio has Bloomberg veterans on hand

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, right, speaks with New

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, right, speaks with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on the scene Wednesday, March 12, 2014, as firefighters from the FDNY respond to a five-alarm fire and building collapse on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Office of the Mayor of New York

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio oversaw his first disaster – the East Harlem building explosions – surrounded by agency chiefs held over from the Bloomberg administration.

De Blasio, who is still filling jobs 71 days into his mayoralty, has kept most of Mike Bloomberg's emergency-response team -- on an interim basis, at least -- including the FDNY's Sal Cassano, the Office of Emergency Management's Joe Bruno and the acting buildings commissioner, Tom Fariello, who was a first deputy under Bloomberg. Another holdover, Sanitation's John Doherty, has been at de Blasio's side for this winter’s snowstorm news conferences. 

A notable exception is Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who replaced Ray Kelly in one of de Blasio's first appointments as mayor. 

Speaking after de Blasio’s news conference near the blast scene, Bruno said he has found the new mayor “engaging.” 

“Fortunately for him, he has me and Sal and Sanitation [Doherty] because he had about eight snowstorms,” said Bruno, OEM’s commissioner since March 2004.

Jarrod Bernstein, a former city emergency management official, said de Blasio benefits from keeping so many experienced hands in place. 

"They're not breaking in a new fire commissioner and a new OEM commissioner -- and a new mayor -- at the same time," said Bernstein, who went on to work for the federal Department of Homeland Security and now is a crisis PR expert. 

He added: “There's some benefit to having experienced holdovers, even if they're not the people he picked or would pick, because he has the benefit of their experience.”

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