De Blasio Team Defends Decision to Keep Schools Open on 'Beautiful Day'

By Nicole Bode and Colby Hamilton  on February 13, 2014 12:39pm  | Updated on February 13, 2014 2:25pm

 Gergis Gamel, 43, of New Springville, had to skip work because of the poor conditions on the road, and said it was a dangerous drive to get his kids to school.
Gergis Gamel, 43, of New Springville, had to skip work because of the poor conditions on the road, and said it was a dangerous drive to get his kids to school.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña faced a hail of criticism about their decision to keep schools open on Thursday, with outraged parents and even weatherman Al Roker taking them to task.

De Blasio defended himself against more than an hour over his decision to keep schools open despite a forecast of more than a foot of snow over the course of Wednesday night into Thursday.

The mayor said his decision was largely based on National Weather Service predictions that there would only be three inches of snow by the start of school — when in fact, close to 7 inches fell on the city by 9 a.m. and visibility was less than a mile, according to meteorologists.

School buses slipped and slid around snow-covered streets while parents dragged their kids through snowdrifts as tall as their children.

"Forgive the rah rah spirit here, but we're going out with a can-do attitude," de Blasio said, saying that children, and bus routes, were safe, functional and under control.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña seconded the decision, saying that city students have the entire week off of school next week, and that they were loath to give them another day off Thursday for fear that students would backslide. She added that students who were absent from school Thursday would not be given a pass for taking the day off.

"At the course of a whole day, you can still get to school," Fariña said. "It has totally stopped snowing. It is absolutely a beautiful day out there."

Thunderstruck parents and New Yorkers hit back, lighting up Twitter with criticism asking if Fariña had lost her senses.

"Requirements for beautiful day: 1. Hail in eyes 2. Wet socks 3. Slippery subway stairwells," Twitter user @franktisellano wrote.

"what part of Hawaii is she in today?" wrote Twitter user @Koristantonnyc.

Farina later clarified her "beautiful day" comment, saying she meant that once the snow stopped and, "it's getting warmer … theoretically, the snow will start melting."

 Mayor Bill de Blasio, School Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty giving an update on the winter storm at the Office of Emergency Management headquarters in downtown Brooklyn on February 13, 2014.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, School Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty giving an update on the winter storm at the Office of Emergency Management headquarters in downtown Brooklyn on February 13, 2014.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

The mayor faced down the most aggressive questioning from the press corps to date, being buffeted for more than an hour.

De Blasio was even asked about a tweet from NBC Weatherman Al Roker, who wrote: "@NYCMayorsOffice says snow was faster/heavier than expected. No, Mr. Mayor. It came as predicted. Don't blame weather for YOUR poor policy."

"How dare @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCSchools throw NWS under the school bus. Forecast was on time and on the money," Roker added. "Long range [de Blasio] forecast: 1 term."

De Blasio said while he respects Roker "a lot" and "watched him on TV for many many years, it's a different thing to run a city than to give the weather on TV."

The Mayor also faced criticism from head of the teachers union, Michael Mulgrew, who earlier today called opening schools a "mistake."

"Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted," Mulgrew said.

Mulgrew later softened his criticism, saying that while he disagreed with the decision to open schools, he agreed with de Blasio and Fariña that the DOE "needs to develop a clear public protocol that will help parents and staff understand how and when officials decide to close or open schools.”

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