CADMAN PLAZA EAST — The mayor will wait until the early morning after the first winter storm of 2014 has hit the city to announce whether or not he will close schools on Friday.
As the city braces for 5 to 9 inches of snow in the five boroughs and the city sanitation department readied 450 salt spreaders and 1700 plow trucks to battle the snow, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an afternoon press conference that he needed more information before cancelling classes.
"Because we're talking about 1.1 million-plus kids and all of the families, we have to make sure we get this right," the mayor said during an early evening press conference at the Office of Emergency Management. "So right now, we simply don't know enough to make a firm decision. We have to see how the weather develops."
Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina announced that all after-school programs, field trips and PSAL games scheduled for Friday were all canceled.
Meanwhile, other city agencies planned to scale down their services for the storm.
The MTA announced that express subways would cease running at 5:45 Thursday night.
Trains would continue to run, the MTA said, but locally so that trains can be stored on underground tracks to protect them from the snow.
Metro-North will reduce service after 8 p.m, but will provide hourly service on on all three lines. On Friday, the trains will run on a Saturday schedule. The Long Island Rail Road will operate on a weekend schedule.
The city suspended alternate side of the street parking, but vowed to keep public schools open as long as possible.
The mayor stressed the importance of residents staying off the streets and out of the elements, both for their own safety and to help city employees as they work to clear the snow.
“The best thing we can do as New Yorkers is to get off the streets this evening,” de Blasio said Thursday following the swearing in ceremony for NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.
De Blasio vowed to be “on top of the action,” and added that officals would wait to make a “game-time decision” on whether to keep schools open Friday.
“It’s not something you do lightly,” de Blasio told reporters, as Sanitation Department Commissioner John Doherty stood at his side. “We’ll watch as this develops and we’ll make a decision in the early morning hours.”
“We have to get it right, no question about it,” de Blasio added. “We're not taking anything lightly.”
According to the National Weather Service, the city is facing up to 5-9 inches of snow between Thursday night and Friday.
The mayor said he had reviewed the city’s preparation plans with Commissioner Doherty to ensure snow removal efforts were being focused first in high-needs communities, like on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens.
“I believe government needs to serve all five boroughs equally and that begins today with this storm,” he said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo put state agencies on an emergency footing and ordered the closing of the New York State Thruway, Interstate 84 and the Long Island Expressway from midnight to 5 a.m.
"Mother Nature is once again reminding us who's in charge," the governor said.
City and state agencies weren't the only ones prepping for the looming storm.
At Trader Joe's on Court Street and Atlantic Avenue, the checkout line wrapped through several aisles. Nearly all the bread had sold out and the fresh vegetables were running low.
"I should have come earlier," John Sannon, 38, of Ditmas Park said. "It's light on the shelves. They're out of pretty much everything. All the vegetables. All the milk. And beer."
Sannon said he had managed to snag the last two green peppers and the last tomato on the shelves.