Halloran says mayor twisted snow plot claims

Halloran says mayor twisted snow plot claims
Photo courtesy Dan Halloran
By Phil Corso

In an attempt to set the record straight as he runs for re-election to a second term, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) has blamed Mayor Michael Bloomberg for distorting his claims about a Sanitation Department slowdown in the aftermath of the 2010 blizzard.

After praising the city’s Sanitation workers for a job well done in clearing this season’s snows, the councilman revisited the public controversy he set off when he contended that the agency’s supervisors in his district had called for a work slowdown after 20 inches of snow fell on city streets Dec. 26, 2010. Streets in Queens and other parts of the city were impassable for days as plows struggled to unclog roads and rescue ill residents.

“Based on constituent opinion, the DSNY did an excellent job this year vs. what many constituents saw and said in 2010,” said Kevin Ryan, Halloran’s spokesman. “Whatever actually happened in the 2010 blizzard, most residents felt that our streets were not cleared properly. This year the people we serve are much happier.”

Ryan added, “This was a good opportunity for the Council member to both commend the DSNY and clarify his 2010 position, while also calling for a change in the snow removal maps in the future. It’s all about giving the district residents a voice.”

Halloran’s claims that the Sanitation workers had organized a slowdown because of a department plan to demote 100 supervisors made headlines in the city’s newspapers.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan launched an investigations into Halloran’s contention and he faced a contempt of court charge for failure to cooperate with a federal grand jury looking into his claims. In June 2011 the city Department of Investigation issued a report saying their interviews with more than 150 witnesses had found no basis for Halloran’s slowdown claims.

“In toto, Mr. Halloran’s information about city employee statements contributed no actual evidence about a possible slowdown,” the report said.

After the most recent snowfall, the councilman reflected back on his claims and pointed the finger at Bloomberg for taking his remarks out of context.

“Mayor Bloomberg was clearly trying to distract the public from his lack of hands-on governance during that storm and his growing troubles with DSNY supervisors, who were illegitimately targeted for summary demotions by his administration,” Halloran said. “At the time, my statements were unfortunately distorted into criticism for the hardworking DSNY employees and I was wrong to not fight more forcefully to clear up the record.”

Bloomberg and other top city officials were criticized for being out of the city for the Christmas holiday weekend when the blizzard hit.

As he faces a field of five Democrats seeking the spot to challenge him in November, Halloran said he hoped to set the record straight by saying he regretted the collateral damage caused by the political whirlwind.

“I never intended to criticize the rank-and-file workers of the DSNY or the vast majority of hardworking supervisors. I know how hard they work. The issues I raised were directed at the policymakers in the top management positions, based on what I’d heard at the time,” Halloran said. “While locker-room talk and outside agency griping were at the heart of my commentary, my intention was not always communicated as clearly as it should have been.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.