NYC
08/29/2011 11:46 am ET | Updated Oct 29, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg's Irene M.O.: 'Better Safe Than Sorry'

Now that the storm's passed and as New Yorkers are returning to their normal routines, some of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's toughest critics are praising hizzoner's handling of Hurricane Irene.

"I'm not a critic today. I'm a fan," said City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), according to The New York Daily News, who last spring headed what some called the "Mother of all Hearings" into Bloomberg's disastrous and bumbling response to December's post-Christmas blizzard.

"I'm sorta disappointed," James continued. "I emailed some of my colleagues today and said, 'Damn! I missed my opportunity to have the Mother of All Hearings, Part II.'"

And City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, another Brooklyn Democrat and Bloomberg-critic, told The New York Times, “This time, the mayor had a clear plan and a clear message,” adding, “It probably saved lives.”

Both the Times and New York Magazine describe Bloomberg as acting fatherly in the face of Irene. The mayor gave seven press conferences before the storm hit (compared to just one before the blizzard, as the snow was starting to fall). He ordered the mandatory evacuation of nearly 370,000 residents of coastal, low-lying areas in the city and used stern language to stress the importance of leaving in time . “Can you imagine," he implored those he'd ordered to evacuate, "looking back and saying we could have avoided a tragedy because you just didn’t want to get going until you had to?"

At a Saturday night press conference, as Irene was beginning to dump rain on the city, the Mayor told New Yorkers to get some rest and that everything would be alright.

And, all things considered, everything was alright. Of course there was flooding but the storm largely spared New York City, which hadn't had a significant hurricane since 1938.

Expert forecasters misjudged the severity of Irene as it barreled toward the East Coast of the United States late last week. It weakened considerably by the time it hit New York.

Although some have claimed the Mayor, and Governor Cuomo, who ordered the city's subways be shut down Saturday, overreacted to Irene, the resounding general consensus is that the Mayor's 'better safe than sorry' strategy was one that worked for New York.

“He did the right thing to warn everybody to leave,” Margaret Gerrol, who evacuated her Coney Island home Saturday, told the Times. “We didn’t know how bad the storm was going to be.”

Even Bloomberg himself felt good about his administration's decisions.

"We made exactly the right call," Bloomberg said Sunday, according to The Wall Street Journal, while meeting with high-level officials at the NYPD’s joint operations center.

He aslo took a moment to complement how New Yorkers weathered the storm.

The mayor said overnight crime activity was below normal. There were 45 arrests overnight, compared with 345 on a typical August Saturday night in the city.

“So 300 fewer arrests. If that doesn’t tell you about New Yorkers, I don’t know what does,” the mayor said. “People said, ‘Oh, you were going to have a problem.’ Quite the contrary. New Yorkers do come together.”

And Monday morning, the trains were back up and running earlier than expected.