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NY and NJ leaders take control with aplomb during hurricane


pols Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hurricane Irene tested the leadership of our elected officials during a potentially devastating crisis.

And while Mayor Michael Bloomberg and governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie delivered their messages, alerts and directions in differing styles, none could be accused of botching their performances – especially politically, said Jamie Chandler, a Hunter College political science professor.

“They all handled it competently,” he said.

Here’s why:


Podium personality: He had the most to prove after the city’s sluggish response – and his physical absence – during last year’s post-Christmas blizzard. This time, he held numerous news conferences and outlined the city’s efforts, invoking the persona of a stern, but worried father.

Quote: “You should have left earlier, but if you didn’t, our advice would be … stay where you are.”

Pros: He appeared hands on, helping to coordinate evacuation efforts, warning residents of potential dangers and ensuring the city was on top of storm cleanup.

Cons: Although some residents griped that the city’s response was overblown, Bloomberg has maintained it was better to be over-prepared and not risk lives.

Tweet: This could have been a lot worse. The bottom line is NYC was prepared, as we had to be.


Podium personality: While he wasn’t in the forefront as much as Bloomberg or Christie, that merely reflected his “behind the scenes” style – as was displayed during the legislative session in Albany. During appearances in the city and Long Island, Cuomo shared the podium with others and got straight to the point.

Quote: “New Yorkers would like to think we’re tough and we can handle anything. We are tough, but we’re also smart, and we’re smart enough to know that we don't mess with Mother Nature.”

Pros: He traversed New York state, and showed decisive leadership in mobilizing National Guard members and emergency equipment.

Cons: He took a back seat to other elected officials – at least visually. During major events, it’s the governor who normally tries to appear in control.

Tweet: Restoration of subway service will begin Monday morning.


Podium personality: The blunt-talking governor of New Jersey took the lead during news conferences and announced sweeping decisions to close roadways and evacuate nearly 1 million people from the coastline. While he struck a serious tone, he also didn’t miss a moment to mock reporters for past criticisms, including for being on vacation at Disney World during the December blizzard.

Quote: “Get the hell off the beach. You’ve maximized your tan.” – Christie’s warning to residents and visitors on the Jersey Shore.

Pros: There was no question that he was in charge during the storm and got airtime on national TV.

Cons: His critics are wary of his showy demeanor, saying he’s simply setting himself up for higher office. On Sunday, he mistakenly said at a news conference that one town's rescue squad member had died, but later retracted it. A spokeswoman said he was given inaccurate information.

Tweet: It was great to be on … nat'l & local TV shows this am to inform NJ on #Irene.


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