Mayor, council failed with Sandy preparation
Feb 10, 2013 | 2959 views | 10 10 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

I and many of my neighbors had a much different impression of city hall’s performance related to Hurricane Sandy than your recent letter writer.

We were all completely caught off guard by the storm surge and we cannot hold the government responsible for the damage and lost power. However, the government’s responsibility to stay in touch with the needs of its citizens and respond to those needs in whatever way possible is to be underscored in times of crisis rather than suspended. In this, the mayor, city council and various department heads fell down.

In preparation for Hurricane Irene, there was a barrage of announcements in the days before the storm from fire department trucks, city trucks and volunteers on foot notifying people to evacuate low level apartments, move all vehicles off the streets and stock up on water and food. While the storm did not bring the same widespread loss of power and flooding, the fact that a huge number of people had left town and the streets were empty of vehicles certainly sped the cleanup and return to normalcy.

It is incomprehensible why we saw none of last year’s storm preparation for Sandy. Few people left town (until after the storm hit) and the streets were filled with vehicles as usual. While stunned and stuck in our houses on Tuesday, there continued to be zero announcements or any communication whatsoever except for passing fire and city trucks who responded to questions with “Ask the mayor”, “No one tells us anything”, “We know nothing”. There were numerous joyriders (including city workers) who roared down the street shooting videos and sending waves of water against our houses.

When the water receded Wednesday morning, I walked to city hall to learn the state of things and found the building largely vacant except for an emergency management official (and small crew) who was more interested in talking about his fatigue and flooded apartment. I then walked to our three sub stations to make my own assessment which was aided by a PSE&G inspector at one of the locations. When I returned to city hall on Thursday and was told by the mayor’s office to consult the city website for information, I realized I was wasting my time at city hall.

Looking ahead, will an objective study and/or report be assembled analyzing the city’s preparation and response to the storm? If done properly, this would be enormously useful given that city hall clearly had no plan in place for communicating during a long term power outage since it took 3-4 days before city hall began outreach. Since city hall workers were sent home on Monday without being given the option to work, they were not available to help.

While the mayor did an excellent job getting national media attention begging for assistance, she would be well advised to learn the difference between being a citizen activist (leading volunteers) and a mayor (leading a team of directors, council members and department heads). This also applies to council members who need to understand when to drop the political differences and band together with their opponents for the sake of their constituents.

Hank Forrest

Comments
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ss1959
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February 19, 2013
Hank feel free to review all the good works occurring under Mayor Zimmer:

http://hoboken.patch.com/blog_posts/mayor-zimmer-delivers-her-annual-state-of-the-city-address
John22443
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February 19, 2013
Hank, how did you get to the substation over by the shop rite Weds morning? It was still so flooded that PSE&G couldn't even get there. And why are you not paying attention to your emails? You seem to be a pretty connected guy. The city did email out notices prior to the storm calling for the evacuation of people and cars. That notice was also carried on the news by every network. I also heard that people on the bus I was on coming back from Newport where some of us moved our cars (thanks to Mayor Zimmer's notifications) heard the evacuation notices on loudspeakers from cops driving by their homes.

My suggestion is you need to stock up on some supplies and stow the sour grapes.
Masonop#9
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February 12, 2013
Good to hear about the barren City Hall. When I went near there it was like a scene from that movie "The Siege."

Really hurt our election efforts for Move Forward up at Mason Civic. Everyone downtown at City Hall seemed to be organizing and helping others.

So it's good to hear a few complainers who like us sat on their hands and did nothing.

I mean why couldn't the City send out information over the internet. Just because there was no electricity for a week is no excuse.

Bravo whiners!
John22443
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February 19, 2013
The city sent out information via the internet before, during and after the storm. If you didn't waste your charge playing games once the power went out, you got the notifications.
DorDor
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February 11, 2013
Totally agree. I'm a senior and once the flood water started going down I walked around gathering information for my neighbors. The most important thing we were all lacking was information, having press conferences didn't help Hoboken residents at all, unless you knew about it and were up near city hall.
John22443
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February 19, 2013
Did you expect the mayor to knock on the doors of all 50K residents in town and give each a briefing individually? Seriously? Are you insane?
anony_mous
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February 10, 2013
I applaud this writer for having the courage to tell the truth as he saw it. I was offended by all the "joyriders" on heavy equipment who were doing nothing but shooting videos the day after the storm.
VoteHoboken
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February 10, 2013
I can not find one point of agreement with Mr. Williams' letter nor do the facts support his allegations.

It is odd that he submitted such an obviously poitical letter and then asks others to drop their political differences.

blenny
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February 10, 2013
You must live in a different Hoboken. We were bombarded with info/warnings about Sandy from numerous resources, tv, internet, newspapers. Anyone who wasn't aware of the storm well before it arrived was living in a vacuum. I'm not sure what all could be expected following the storm since few residents, or the government itself had electricity or the ability to easily pass information. I think Hoboken responded quite well to the storm and thank Mayor Zimmer and her staff.
HobokenLeaks
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February 10, 2013
I guess that bitterness from not being reappointed to the planning board is still there. http://www.hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/5500052/article-Grateful-for-chance-to-serve--nor-sure-why-not-reappointed?

In fact, it even led you to refer to Tim Occhipinti's 575 paid "workers" as a "Referendum on Zimmer" http://www.hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/10709057/article-4th-Ward-outcome-was-a-referendum-on-Mayor-Zimmer?

Most people at least agree with you that it was a referendum on *something*. But the consensus is that it was a referendum on open contempt for election law enforcement and what people were still willing to do after Cammarano went to prison.

But your spin was, um, entertaining. Always is.