Mayor Eric Adams defended the pace of his administration’s public messaging on heavy rainfall and severe flooding that drenched the city, leaving cars stranded on flooded roads and half the subway system either fully or partially suspended, on Friday.
Several local pols were quick to blast the mayor, believing hizzoner had not communicated about the storm conditions quickly and clearly.
The mayor made his first public appearance and comments on the extreme weather conditions at an 11 a.m. virtual news conference on Friday, which he showed up over 30 minutes late to, several hours after the severe rain began pounding the city. He declared a city state of emergency during the briefing, over an hour after Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a similar statewide emergency declaration.
Mayor Adams kicked off the briefing defending his administration’s response to the storm, noting that it is something they cannot take lightly and “have not taken lightly.”
Yet reporters peppered Mayor Adams with tough questions about why he did not hold a briefing on Thursday night or earlier Friday to prepare New Yorkers for the torrent of rain, when it was already clear that Friday would be a washout for the Big Apple.
The mayor pointed to alerts issued by the city’s notification system — NotifyNYC, the first of which went out at 2:50 p.m. on Thursday and continued into Friday morning. He also highlighted a series of media hits that, he noted, city Emergency Management (NYSEM) Commissioner Zach Iscol made on Thursday.
“All necessary precautions were taken,” Adams said. “We’ve gone through these flood-related and heavy rain conditions before and we followed the right protocol.”
Administration officials also referenced a “Travel Advisory” City Hall sent out at 11:08 p.m. on Thursday evening that included detailed information about the National Weather Services’ flood warning for the five boroughs and precautions New Yorkers should take.
By contrast, Hochul did a series of radio and TV interviews on the storm beginning earlier Friday morning, and MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber held a press conference on the Thursday afternoon.
When reporters pressed the mayor on why he didn’t personally speak to New Yorkers about the storm sooner, Adams said that his administration “operates as a team,” and he wanted Iscol, as emergency management commissioner, to be his office’s main voice communicating with the public about the storm.
“I want my commissioners, my deputy commissioners, the leaders of this team, who are closest to the ground of a situation, to communicate,” Mayor Adams said. “And that’s what Commissioner Iscol did. There was not an absence of a voice of this administration, our team leaders that are on the front line. I’m just really pleased that I have strong competent leaders that understand their roles that they’re supposed to play. And I give them a clear mandate, that if something is dealing with a particular issue in your catchment area, I want you to lead from the front.”
Storm of criticism
A number of local officials were quick to call out the mayor for what they characterized as a slow mobilization to fully inform the public about the severity of the conditions. The barrage of criticism was reminiscent of backlash to how the administration handled wildfire smoke that engulfed the city for several days in June.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos, a frequent Adams critic who is rumored to be mulling a run against him in the 2025 Democratic primary, said in a statement that the administration needs to “get it together.”
“We need action. Shovels on the ground. Warnings. Climate resilience is about infrastructure and action,” Ramos said, in a statement. “We need to get it together. When an emergency is headed our way, all other projects need to pause — and New Yorkers need to be warned. Early. Weather like this doesn’t just happen. And nothing is as important as properly protecting and preparing New Yorkers.”
Ramos also questioned why a press release wasn’t sent out further in advance to community and ethnic media outlets to give immigrant communities, often the worst impacted by severe weather events, more time to prepare.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, also thought to be pondering a run against Adams in two years, slammed both the mayor and the governor in his own statement, saying it is “glaringly apparent” both levels of government must “revamp” their communications around storms of this magnitude.
“This morning’s events have made it glaringly apparent that New York City and State must improve their processes for communicating with New Yorkers about sudden and extreme weather before it happens,” Reynoso said. “I am calling on the mayor and governor to revamp their processes for notifying New Yorkers about storms and weather emergencies before they happen. We need faster notification, clearer information about the severity of storms, and to act with greater urgency when there is a threat of inclement weather.”