BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A disconnect regarding snow removal in the City of Buffalo has two of Western New York’s most prominent elected officials at odds.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz called Buffalo’s cleanup efforts “embarrassing” during his press conference an hour earlier, and said there’s a reason the County has had to step in.
“The mayor’s not going to be happy to hear about it, but storm after storm after storm after storm, the City, unfortunately, is the last one to be opened and that shouldn’t be the case,” Poloncarz said. “It’s embarrassing, to tell you the truth.”
When Brown was informed of Poloncarz’s comments, he said he did not personally hear them, but responded, saying that people handle pressure differently, that some keep working and some break down and lash out.
“I don’t really know what the County Executive is talking about. I do know that the storm conditions in the City of Buffalo were most adverse in all of Erie County — in all of Western New York,” the Mayor said. “He has never once, County Executive-to-Mayor, said any of these things to me. So to say that during a news briefing is a little strange, it’s a little odd, I don’t know where that comes from.”
Brown continued, referencing the severity of the storm.
“The City did everything that it could under historic blizzard conditions,” he said. “It’s been said that this storm was the worst that the City of Buffalo has seen in 50 years — perhaps the worst storm Buffalo’s seen since storms have been recorded.”
In the County presser, Poloncarz commended his team’s and the State team’s speed in clearing out Buffalo’s streets, saying there’s a reason why larger governments have had to step in.
“There’s a reason why the State and the County have come in and taken over operations,” Polancarz said. “We know that we can get in there and clean it very quickly, the State is basically doing the same thing … I think it’s apparent that it’s time [for a snow-cleaning operation change in Buffalo,] or at least a discussion on the future.”
Brown, in the City press conference, stressed the importance of cooperation.
“I don’t have any feud. My approach and the City’s approach is always to work collaboratively and to work cooperatively with others in the community and others in government,” the mayor said. “There was a lot of communication before, at the beginning and during the storm.”
Another issue Mayor Brown took with the County was the bringing in of military police to ticket motorists violating the driving ban. He said the ban remains in effect, but said the City has asked for motorists to not be ticketed following the blizzard.
“A number of people have reached out to the City very concerned that the National Guard would be in the City of Buffalo ticketing motorists. We have asked that that not happen. That request did not come from the City of Buffalo,” Brown said. “After people are going through tragedy, after people are going through devastating conditions, we are not going to criminalize the residents of the City of Buffalo and the residents of WNY.”
Regarding the coordination of response efforts for the blizzard, Poloncarz stated that each morning, local officials from different municipalities have a call, and that Buffalo officials were not on it Wednesday morning — nor have they generally been, though Brown claimed otherwise. In addition, Poloncarz mentioned Erie County has had an emergency operations center for the blizzard, while Buffalo did not.
“The City has been in the emergency operations center — we have had Police personnel, we have had Fire personnel in the emergency operations center,” Brown said. “We have coordinated conversations with the County, with the State DOT, with the State Department of Emergency Services, with Homeland Security. So we have been involved.”
When the City’s preparedness to handle the storm was brought into question, Brown said the City’s snow-fighting plan doesn’t address blizzards, “it addresses normal snowfall.”
Nate Marton of the Department of Public Works said the plow GPS tracker is functioning and teams are coordinating across Buffalo.
“Residentials, by the end of the day will be 100% clear on those first passes,” Marton said. “In some cases you may have some snow piles, but we’re going to come back and get those in secondary clean.”
Poloncarz said he’d hire more trucks and contractors to help clean the city if that’s what it takes to open Buffalo back up.
“We will do what it takes in the future to ensure that our community is open as quickly as possible,” Poloncarz said. “If that means we have to hire more trucks and get more contractors and bring in more people to handle an area that Erie County has never been responsible for, we’ll do it. I just don’t want to see this anymore, I’m sick of it.”
When pressed about storm-related deaths, Brown was asked if he thought he should resign as mayor. He said no. He then cited, once again, the “historic conditions” and his telling people on Thursday to stay home.
The City’s driving ban did not begin until 9:30 Friday morning.
With regard to outages, Brown said National Grid told him that 80% of outages in Western New York were in the City of Buffalo, and that storm affected people across the city. He also said he was told equipment to restore power was “absolutely not” dispersed differently in different parts of the city.
The mayor once again responded to the apparent disjunction between himself and County Executive Poloncarz on cleanup efforts to end the City press conference.
“I’m peace and love. I’m cool, calm, and collected. And I don’t lose my mind during a crisis,” Brown said.
Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.