New York mayor Bill de Blasio shovels snow in show of solidarity

Bill de Blasio shovels snow as New York temperature drops to minus 18

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:36am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:36am


His feet deep in snow and a shovel in hand as a snowstorm hit New York, new mayor Bill de Blasio immediately displayed a leadership style contrasting sharply with his predecessor.

Barely a day after he was sworn in, the liberal Democrat with little experience in office faced the first major challenge of his administration in the form of the storm and frigid temperatures that hit America's biggest city on Thursday and stretched into the weekend.

The storm that battered the US northeast left at least 16 people dead amid blizzard-like conditions, authorities said. With nearly 60cm of snow dumped on some areas, some 3,467 flights were cancelled on Friday across the United States and 12,394 were delayed.

The man who promised a "fairer, more just, more progressive place," sought to prove he meant it with a packed schedule to help his fellow city-dwellers in need.

At 10pm on Thursday, the 52-year-old mayor visited workers at a city garage in Brooklyn and promptly tweeted about it, thanking the "hardworking team" and "all those who are keeping our city safe tonight."

At 4am he held a teleconference to decide on school closures, then cleaned up his pavement himself in Brooklyn, visited sanitation workers in Queens and held a press conference. His down-to-earth approach marked a major departure from his austere predecessor Michael Bloomberg, 71, who lived in a 1,100-square metre private residence near Central Park.

Early on Friday, the new mayor was spotted removing snow with a shovel outside his small house in the Park Slope neighbourhood of New York's Brooklyn borough, wearing jeans and a black vest.

Towering at 1.96 metres, he demonstrated before the cameras how to shovel snow properly by bending the knees in order to avoid back pain.

"Rise up with the knees, don't lift with your back, lift with your knees," he said.

His 16-year-old son Dante finished the work in the alleyway, with a photo posted on Twitter by his mother Chirlane McCray as proof.

De Blasio gave him an "A for effort and a D for punctuality."

For a press conference held at a Sanitation Department repair shop in Queens, de Blasio showed up in jeans and a bright blue windbreaker over a collared shirt.

The mayor warmly congratulated the teams of workers who toiled all night to clear the roads.

At his side was Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, whom de Blasio thanked, hand on his shoulder.

De Blasio urged people to remember the elderly and the homeless in the brutal temperatures, after the thermostat hit minus 18 degrees Celsius, and asked New Yorkers to stay at home.

Bloomberg was harshly criticised for the slow response, especially in Queens and Brooklyn, to a December 2010 blizzard that dumped 50cm of snow on the Big Apple, three times more than on Friday.