New York City Council launches oversight hearing to evaluate mayor's response to smoke crisis

The New York City Council is launching an oversight hearing next Thursday to examine the mayor’s response to the smoke that enveloped the city in an orange haze last month.

The smoke, a result of wildfires in Canada, plunged the air quality to hazardous levels. But some say Mayor Eric Adams did not act quickly enough.

Brewer is the chair of the Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, which is leading the hearing, and says the intent is to see what plans are in place if this happens again.

"It wasn't a fast response," Brewer said about the mayor. "I assume it took the administration by surprise also. The reason for the hearing is to find out are we prepared? Even things as specific as where do you get masks?"

Smoke first began to cover the city on June 6 – Mayor Adams tweeted out a health advisory in the afternoon warning New Yorkers to limit outdoor activities.

However, it wasn’t until 11:30 p.m. that night that the Adams administration canceled all outdoor activities at public schools.

Adams at the time defended his response.

"The team did its job. This is the challenge we're doing and there are going to be more issues like this. There's no blueprint or playbook for these type of issues," Adams said. 

A spokesperson for Adams also defended the team’s response and said that forecasting air quality indexes is incredibly difficult and only available 24 hours in advance.

They also recommended people sign up for the mobile app Notify NYC which sent out alerts about the air quality a week in advance.

According to the administration, more than 1 million New Yorkers are signed up for the app.

Yet critics say that Adams should have moved faster to distribute masks and urge people to work from home.

One of the issues that the hearing will examine is what sort of plan is in place if this were to happen again, such as mask distribution plans and guidance for air filtration.

"I want New Yorkers to know everything that we know, so they too can make their own decisions about what they want to do for themselves," Brewer said. 

The hearing will be held on July 13.