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Snowstorm a rite of passage for de Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shovels

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shovels the sidewalk in front of his house. (Jan. 3, 2014) Credit: AP

Mayor Bill de Blasio was winding up his first post-snowstorm news conference with a striptease.

Sleep-deprived from overseeing the city's all-day-and-night snow cleanup -- then shoveling out his own Brooklyn row house -- he stood inside a cavernous Queens sanitation depot playfully unzipping his windbreaker and tugging on his button-down shirt.

"I have an undershirt also," he told the reporter who asked how many clothing layers he was wearing. "Do you want me to go farther?"

The 109th mayor, while more playful than his predecessor, was determined to pass his first test as municipal manager and make sure the city got plowed -- all of it.

"All boroughs are created equal," he said Friday.

There were a few rookie hiccups.

When he was shoveling in front of his home, he threw snow onto Park Slope's 11th Street -- a legal no-no that elicited a gentle personal scolding from his sanitation commissioner, John J. Doherty.

He initially urged New Yorkers to dial 911 to report nonemergencies before correcting himself -- it's 311.

It was only the third day of his mayoralty. "It would've been nice to talk about how to handle a snowstorm in an abstract exercise, but we didn't get to do that," he said, turning to Doherty. "We got the real thing."

He said that he'd never before had such an early conference call -- "I emphasize the word 'early' " -- as the one in which he decided to order public schools shut for the day.

"I have never done a 4 a.m. conference call in my life," de Blasio said, laughing sheepishly. He added: "I was one of the most informed people in New York City at 4 a.m."

By late morning, he declared, 100 percent of main roads had been plowed at least once, with secondary roads at 92 percent and tertiary roads 93 percent.

"The trucks came and it was fine," said Dan Grimes of Woodside, Queens, a few blocks from the depot. "These are not the John Lindsay days."

Grimes, 70, who lives a mile from the depot where de Blasio spoke, was recalling 1969, when then-Mayor Lindsay left the borough buried for days under 15 inches of unplowed snow. The snafu nearly cost Lindsay the mayoralty, and he became a case study in how not to handle a snowstorm.

Besides making sure the city's 6,200 miles of streets got plowed, de Blasio had an assignment for his son, Dante, 16.

After a Facebook chat went viral of Dante telling a friend he's lobbying his dad to close schools, first lady Chirlane McCray tweeted a photo of a shovel and salt to show what Dante would be doing if schools weren't open. Dante took over the snow job at home after his dad left.

The mayor graded his only son: "I give Dante an 'A' for effort, and a 'D' for punctuality."

With Maria Alvarez

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