This week New Yorkers faced something they have truly never dealt with before. Hurricane Sandy was something bigger than any native New Yorkers like myself had ever seen. A natural disaster occurred here and hurt us in a major way. I do not know a single NY’er who was not affected in some way.
At least 44 people died. Millions of New Yorkers were without power for much of the week – and many still remain so. An entire neighborhood burned down, thousands of more homes were destroyed. Public transportation came to a halt and at least half of it is still not yet back up and running. The stock market closed for an unheard of two days, and schools closed for the entire week with many in the suburbs remaining closed for the coming week. Gas lines five hours long are commonplace.
This was a disaster, socially, economically, physically and emotionally for us all, and while New Yorkers are generally a tough bunch, politicians have done a miserable job when it came to the crisis PR associated with this disaster.
As a Staten Island resident was quoted in the paper as saying, “About the mayor’s congratulating the governor and the governor’s congratulating the mayor… About what? People died.” She is right. What were they congratulating one another for? People died. The Batter Tunnel is under 40 million gallons of water, 57th Street was evacuated for nearly a week, lower Manhattan had no power for four days, and the city came to a stop. Millions are without power and food, and we have no clue who is in charge of cleanup efforts. Then Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference which contains information that other city offices openly disagree with.
The Mayor touted the necessity of a marathon and cancelled at the last minute. It was a huge mistake and a PR nightmare to even suggest holding the marathon at this time, and then imagine how many people paid to come to New York only to have it cancelled at the last minute. I love this great city of New York.
Yet, while this was a nightmare situation never before experienced in this City, and truly not an easy situation for anyone to predict or deal with, good, strong communications is always key. We did not have that. We had chaos and mixed message. This disaster was not handled well.
Emergency services personnel were amazing, and the heroes of this city shone during this time, but to hear officials pat one another on the backs while many have nothing to smile about highlights the wrong priorities here.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of New York based 5W PR.