NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited some of the neighborhoods hard-hit by the Christmas-weekend blizzard and confessed Thursday that the city's handling of the crisis was "inadequate and unacceptable." But it was clear the anger wasn't exactly melting away.
The mayor had just declared a victory of sorts - three days after the snow stopped falling, every street had been plowed at least once, he announced - when a politician appearing with him stepped up to the microphone to complain.
"Even where I live, there's still about four inches to go," Queens Borough President Helen Marshall told the reporters gathered at a recreation center. Partially plowed, packed-down snow from the 20-inch storm could still be seen on at least one street nearby.
Marshall said constituents were still calling her office to ask: "Where is the plow?"
Many streets were still impassable or unplowed.
Angelo Annunziata, 58, stood on his Brooklyn block on a snowpacked street, drifts still covering half the cars. A snowplow came through for the first time on Thursday afternoon.
"I work in Manhattan, and there they're running plows on clear pavement. All Bloomberg cares about are all the people coming in to Manhattan for New Year's," he said. "Well, we pay taxes like everybody else. This is ridiculous."
As he did earlier in the week, Bloomberg promised to investigate what went wrong. But he denied budget cuts had anything to do with the city's sluggish response. And while he said he would investigate persistent rumors that snowplow operators staged a slowdown during the storm, he said there was no evidence of such a protest.
Meanwhile, the New York area's three main airports were almost back to normal, with only a few stranded passengers left. And for the first time since the storm hit, the city's hundreds of subway stations were all up and running Thursday - the same day a fare increase happened to take effect. The last of some 600 stuck buses had been cleared, as had most of the abandoned cars, the mayor said.
Bloomberg - a media mogul who has built a reputation as an able manager, adept at cutting through bureaucracy - defended the city's response to the blizzard earlier in the week, but adopted a more conciliatory tone over the past few days as complaints of stuck ambulances and unplowed streets mounted.
"The response to the snowstorm was inadequate and unacceptable," he conceded Thursday. "Nobody is satisfied. We're accountable. I'm accountable."