Three Weeks After Sandy, A Return to Normalcy for Bloomberg and Cuomo

Not normal, but getting there, maybe. (Getty_

It has been a difficult few weeks for New York, to say the least, and that goes for the two men at the center of the recovery, too, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Both men have worked tirelessly for the past 25 days, first preparing the city and the state for the approaching superstorm, and then helping everyone recover from the disaster. That job will continue for months, even years, but at the same time, life must go on. And for the chief executives of New York City and New York State, that process has slowly begun. And it all started today. Or so their public schedules would suggest.

The public schedule for the mayor and the governor is a sacred text, at least in news rooms across the city. Like the AP daybook, it is the document by which reporters set their clocks and live their lives. Normally, there is a mix of big announcements—a new budget, a new anti-poverty initiative, a ribbon cutting for a new park—and small appearances—a parade, a gala, a public policy conference.

Even before Hurricane Sandy made landfall, as the mayor and governor scrambled to prepare New Yorkers for the oncoming storm, there has been none of that, and certainly nothing since. It has been all Sandy, all the time.

From Oct. 26 through Nov. 8, Mayor Bloomberg did not go a day without holding a daily briefing on the city’s response to the storm, sometimes holding one or two. There he fielded questions on everything from the number of fatalities to the status of the precarious One57 crane, from the fate of powerless NYCHA developments to whether or not the marathon would go on.

Pretty much the same thing went for Governor Cuomo, though when he was taking questions, it was just as often out in the field, after handing out canned goods or surveying flooding in one of the MTA’s tunnels. (Which is not to say the mayor was out in the field, he has just made a point of not making a point about it, eschewing cameras for one-on-one time.)

That is what made the public schedules for both Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo for today—or rather late last night, as that is always when these things show up in your inbox—so interesting. For the first time in almost a month, they have broken from the Sandy-imposed strictures of their schedules. It could be a coincidence that this also happened to happen on the same day, but we’re taking it as a sign.

In the mayor’s case, he will be attending two charity events later this evening. At 6:45, he speaks at the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation 2012 Life Without Lupus Gala, and 45 minutes later, he presents the Female Race of the Year Award at the 2012 Gold Goggles Awards. This is the first time since the storm, basically, that the mayor has gotten back to any of his old, pre-storm duties.

Meanwhile, for the first time in almost four week, Governor Cuomo finds himself in Albany, according to his schedule, and not in New York City, where he has been based throughout the duration of the Sandy saga. The governor did not host any public events today.

This is not to suggest that either man was anything but wholly focused on the continuing task of helping the city recover from the storm. For the mayor’s part, his first public appearance of the day was just after noon, at P.S. 43 in the Rockaways, where he and Chancellor Dennis Walcott celebrated the opening of a dozen schools that had been closed by Sandy.

The governor’s office was equally busy, making four separate announcements today: insurance assistance seminars on Staten Island today and tomorrow; disaster unemployment assistance had expanded to more counties; an $8.2 million grant for Project Hope, a disaster counseling program; and the impending launch of a Rockaways subway shuttle.

“It’s true, we are back,” Josh Vlasto, the governor’s spokesman said of the administration’s trip up to Albany, confirming that the governor had not been since the storm hit. “We are doing an event in the city tomorrow that’s related, though,” he added. Most of the work in Albany has been storm-centric, as well, he said, but the general work of government, of running the fourth largest state in the country, must also continue.

As for City Hall, Marc LaVorgna, the mayor’s spokesman, made it clear that just because the mayor was taking an hour out of his schedule to attend to charity causes, the administration had in no way shifted its focus away from the recovery efforts. “This is pretty much all we’ve been doing,” he said. “There’s been some other day-to-day stuff, but it’s mostly non-stop Sandy still.”

Also, these two charities were ones the mayor especially did not want to miss. “We’ve cancelled an extraordinary amount of commitments for very good causes that we just did not have the time to do,” Mr. LaVorgna said. “These are two charities he wanted to keep that commitment to. We’ve had to cancel a lot, but I think people understand what else is going on.”

So, nothing new, at least not yet, and who knows when, again. Still no ribbon cuttings, still no big, or even little, legislative campaigns. We are still, in so many ways, in the eye of the storm, and the city and the state will probably remain there for months or more. But at the same time, just as it is comforting when the flood waters begin to recede, when the lights flicker back, when the difficult work of rebuilding gets underway, it is, in its was, at least a little bit comforting when when our politicians can find time for all the other tasks, great and small, in their vast portfolio. Life goes on, it must, one press conference at a time.

Maybe just not yet.

“We are nowhere near normal,” Mr. LaVorgna said, sounding like a man who had seen much these past three weeks.

New Yorker’s know that. And just like 9/11 and all the other disasters that have confronted the city in its four centuries, we are ready to try and get back there again, anyway.

Three Weeks After Sandy, A Return to Normalcy for Bloomberg and Cuomo