By Bill Parry
Seven members of the Queens delegation to the City Council signed a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday expressing their strong support for Joe Esposito, the outgoing commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM)
Esposito was reportedly fired Nov. 30 by a deputy mayor for the poor response to an unexpected snow storm Nov. 15 that caused gridlock in many areas of the city. The New York Post, however, reported that Esposito showed up to work on Monday, and the mayor said later in the day that Esposito would remain on the job until a replacement is found.
“We have started the process of leadership change at New York City Emergency Management,” de Blasio said Monday. “Commissioner Joe Esposito will continue to lead OEM as we conduct a national search for his successor.”
In all, 28 council members signed the letter in less than two hours saying they were “shocked and dismayed” that Esposito was to be “ousted as a scapegoat” and called for the decision to be reversed.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich called Esposito “one of the few competent people left in the de Blasio administration” on Twitter while fellow City Councilman Barry Grodenchik called the episode “a disaster, man made, on more levels than I can count,” in a tweet.
Esposito had a 45-year career in the NYPD that began in 1968. He rose to the level of Chief of the Department in 2000, making him the highest ranked uniformed officer in the department until he retired in 2013.
He took over the OEM leadership one year later. Esposito was responsible for oversight of the city’s efforts to plan and prepare for emergencies, educate the public about preparedness, coordinate emergency response and recovery, and disseminate emergency information.
Esposito earned praise for his leadership during and after the 9/11 terror attacks and he oversaw the NYPD’s response to Hurricane Sandy.
“As City Council members, when we contact a City Commissioner, we are often subject to the same bureaucracy that we fight through our constituents. That is never the case with Commissioner Esposito, who personally responds to inquiries overnight or during the weekend,” the letter to the mayor read.
City Councilman Francisco Moya expounded on Twitter, saying it spoke to Esposito’s character “that he kept doing his job over the weekend even after he was fired on Friday,” and that he was “shamelessly scapegoated.”
Esposito was out of town on vacation during the freak snowstorm.
“How can he be blamed for the fact that the Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation and other agencies were wholly unprepared for the storm?” City Councilman Robert Holden said. “According to some accounts, the OEM and National Weather Service advised our city agencies that the forecast would be heavier than expected and to prepare for the worst. Our city agencies were not prepared, and it’s appalling that Esposito is seemingly the fall guy for this.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr