Mayor Eric Adams and his administration mounted a full-throated defense before the City Council on Wednesday of its handling of the unhealthy air quality last month due to raging Canadian wildfires.
New York City street lights flickered to life midday on June 7 as a thick fog of smoke and pollution descended upon the city and the air pollution was so poor that it nearly topped the entire air quality scale at 484 – out of 500.
But before the smog lifted, City Hall was under fire for not having an effective citywide communication plan about air quality issues as they made their first announcement just before midnight on June 6.
“It was the appropriate response based on the science and we trust the science,” Emergency Management commissioner Zach Iscol told the lawmakers at one point during the hearing. “I’m telling you that based on the forecasting abilities, we did everything that we should have done.”
In an interview earlier in the day on FOX 5, Adams disputed critiques of his administration’s efforts to tackle the issue of air quality.
“What should we have done? Put out the fires?” Adams told the station, adding that the criticism came from “the same usual suspects.”
“They criticize us to criticize us,” he added. “Let them do the sound bites, I’m going to create a sound city.”
Iscol also attempted to argue that City Hall had attempted to notify the public through means other than the Big Apple’s newspapers, television channels and radio outlets, but acknowledged that those efforts failed to gain substantial attention.
Throughout the morning hearing, Iscol repeatedly attempted to shift the blame to the forecasts provided by the air quality forecasts issued by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation for understating the eventual severity of smoke cloud.
“We didn’t have a forecast telling us that we were going to hit hazardous levels,” he said at one point, though he preceded that remark by telling lawmakers that: “I don’t want this to sound at all like I’m throwing them under the bus, their meteorologists are fantastic,” he said.
He added: “Forecasting air quality is very, very difficult to do.”