Rare 4.8 Magnitude Earthquake Felt In NYC – Mayor’s Office Holds Briefing With Senior Administration Officials

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TRANSCRIPT: MAYOR ADAMS HOLDS BRIEFING WITH SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS EARTHQUAKE FELT IN GREATER NEW YORK CITY AREA

Editor’s note: Nearly everyone on Staten Island felt this earthquake yesterday morning, and there have been several aftershocks already, which are likely to continue throughout the next week.  311 lines were jammed with callers, and many cell phone users experienced disruptions as everyone tried to call someone at the same time.  We all wanted to know, ‘Did you feel that too?’ The answer, invariably, was yes, we all felt it. All the way from Connecticut to Pennsylvania and everywhere in between.  The last time an earthquake of similar magnitude hit NYC was in the year 1783. According to TimeOut: “The most similar earthquake to what we felt on Friday was in 1783

A 4.9 magnitude tremor came out of North Central, New Jersey—not too far from Friday’s earthquake! It also apparently knocked chimneys down. Luckily, this quake on Friday didn’t cause any widespread damage.”

Deputy Mayor Fabien Levy, Communications: Thank you all for joining us at New York City Emergency Management Headquarters. I’m Fabien Levy, deputy mayor for Communications for the City of New York. Earlier this morning, New York City and surrounding regions experienced a 4.8 magnitude earthquake. While we are still assessing the impact of this incident, we currently do not have reports of major impacts at this time. Our teams moved quickly to coordinate across city and state agencies, and make sure that New Yorkers were safe.

 


We’ve brought together key leaders to provide people with more information about the earthquake and ongoing efforts. We’re joined today by Mayor Eric Adams, Chief Advisor to the Mayor Ingrid Lewis-Martin, Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack, Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol, Police Department Commissioner Edward Caban and senior members of the NYPD leadership, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, Public Schools Chancellor David Banks, Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo, Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch, Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rit Aggarwala, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manny Castro, Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión, Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs Commissioner Fred Kreizman, New York City Health + Hospital Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Dr. Eric Wei, NYCHA Executive VP of Operations Support Services Keith Grossman, MTA CEO Janno Lieber, ConEd President Matt Ketschke. First, I’d like to introduce Mayor Adams.

 

Mayor Eric Adams: Thanks so much, DM Levy, and I’m sure there are many questions that need to be answered. All of us felt in some way or another the earthquake that hit our city around 10:23 a.m. We felt the impact of this 4.7 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was in Lebanon, New Jersey, about 50 miles from New York City.

 

As you know, this is a developing situation where you’re always concerned about aftershocks after an earthquake. New Yorkers should go about their normal day. First responders are working to make sure the city is safe, and one thing we do so well in our city is bring together all of the agencies that are involved and our partners and other entities, everything from the MTA to the Department of Buildings. The parents who are concerned about their school children, Chancellor Banks will be here to report on that, but we say over and over again, the safest place for our students, we believe, will continue to be in school.

 

At this point, we do not have any reports of major impacts to our infrastructure or injuries. But of course, we’re still assessing the situation, and we’ll continue to update the public. We’re in touch with the White House, the governor’s office, and local elected officials. I encourage New Yorkers to check on their loved ones to make sure that they are fine not only from the infrastructure damage, but this could be a traumatic moment for individuals going through an earthquake.

 

If you feel an aftershock, drop to the floor, cover your head and neck, and take cover under a solid piece of furniture next to an interior wall or in a doorway. I want to thank the emergency staff and first responders for their work to keep New Yorkers safe. Earthquakes don’t happen every day in New York, so this can be extremely traumatic. The number of texts, calls, and inquiries that people sent out to not only our administration but to family members checking on them, we know how this can impact you.

 

We’re ready for the unexpected. This is New York City, and we respond accordingly. We will continue to update New Yorkers as we get more information. I will now turn it over to Commissioner Iscol.

 

Commissioner Zach Iscol, New York City Emergency Management: Thank you, sir. Thank you all so much for being here today. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you to my colleagues for their quick and speedy response to this. I’m pleased to report that there are currently no major impacts or safety events related to this earthquake. We’re asking all New Yorkers to call 311 to report damage or any issues that you’re having. Also, if you have any need for disaster assistance due to damage or anything like that, please call 311. That is the best place to refer those needs. If you have a life safety issue, please use and call 911 immediately. Preserve 911 for those life safety events.


 

The team acted immediately. We convened our emergency response teams, and issued guidance to the public. The likelihood of aftershocks remains low, but we do remain vigilant, and we ask all New Yorkers to remain vigilant as well. We activated our protocols for this earthquake. We immediately started coordinating with all city, state, federal, and our utility partners. Public notifications were sent out both by NotifyNYC and our wireless emergency alert system. You can hear some of the phone buzzings and delays from that having been issued.

 

As soon as it happened, we convened here at New York City Emergency Management in order to be able to send out guidance. We activated, as soon as it happened, we convened here at NYCEM to send out our guidance for what happens during an earthquake, including on the possibility of aftershocks. We contacted our City Hall and agency commissioners, as well as all of our partners at the federal and state level. That also includes all of our utility partners, our transportation partners at the MTA, Port Authority, and the airports.

 

While there is a low likelihood that there will be aftershocks, we always want to be on the safe side, so if you are outside during an aftershock, please move to an open area away from buildings, trees, and power lines. If you are driving, pull over to a safe location. We’re asking people to check in on their relatives, on their loved ones, neighbors, especially the children and their other individuals.

 

I think that this is also an incredible time just to remind us all to make sure that we’re prepared. If you are a New Yorker, if you’re visiting New York, we encourage you to sign up for NotifyNYC. This is available in 14 languages, including American Sign Language, with over a million subscribers. You can sign up by calling 311. You can sign up by downloading the app or by going to nyc.gov/notify. We also encourage people to make sure that they have an emergency kit, and to make sure that they know the guidance for earthquakes, which, as the mayor said, to drop, cover, and to get under furniture, sturdy furniture, or in a doorway to make sure that you are safe.

 

Please also make sure that you’re checking your utilities, and that [you know]  how to turn them on and off, especially if you are a property owner. With that said, I’ll turn it over to Chancellor Banks for an update on the schools. Thank you.

 

Chancellor David Banks, New York City Public Schools: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Good afternoon, everyone. The earthquake was felt across the entire city and across many of our schools, across all five boroughs. In fact, I was at LaGuardia High School at an event this morning when the earthquake hit. I did not personally feel it, but many people in the room felt it.

 

First and foremost, what’s most important to understand is we want to emphasize that we’ve received no reports of any injury to staff or students. That’s the most important thing, and safety is our top priority in ensuring that everyone is safe in our schools. Immediately following the earthquake, our teams, both within New York City Public Schools and across the city, immediately jumped into action. We’ve been in close and constant communication with City Hall, the Office of Emergency Management, School Construction Authority, and other agencies as well.

 

At this moment, there is no indication that any of our buildings were compromised. Our facility staff at the School Construction Authority are quickly and thoroughly inspecting buildings to ensure safety. Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve assembled all of our building response teams as well.

 

We’ve instructed all of our school principals to continue operations and dismissal as normal. We ask the school staff and families to remain calm, and to model that for all of our students, all of our children. Parents do not need to pick up their child early as a result of today’s earthquake. Additionally, all after-school programs will continue as planned. If conditions change, our schools will communicate directly with families. We also will post updates on our social media pages, which can be found @NYCSchools.

 

I want to thank all of our school staff and our facility staff for keeping our students safe during times like these. Their professionalism in the face of an emergency is a role model for all of our students. Again, the top lines, all of our students across the school system are safe. All of our staff are safe. We have no reports of any structural damage to any of our school facilities, while many schools have felt, in fact, felt some tremors from the earthquake. Thank you so much.

 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you, chancellor. Next, we’ll hear from Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo.

Commissioner James Oddo, Department of Buildings: Thank you, deputy mayor. Let me say right at the outset that we at the Department of Buildings have not seen an influx of calls regarding building damage.

 

We want all New Yorkers to know that our team is ready. We are putting on additional construction and engineering professionals from this point on over the weekend so if reports do come in, we will be ready to respond. Our construction enforcement unit is out doing inspections similar to what we do prior to big storms.

 

There are 1.1 million buildings in this city, which means we need cooperation from construction professionals. We’ve messaged that to them, but let me take this opportunity again to remind all of our construction professionals: you need to go out and check on your buildings, even if those sites are closed, and determine that the sites are secure. And if you see any conditions that are troublesome, please reach out to the department.

 

This is a time for that tried-and-true saying, if you see something, say something. To New Yorkers, we at the Department of Buildings are concerned about some of the downstream possibilities, cracks that you might see that may materialize and manifest in a week or a month, or scaffolding, retaining walls. If you see something that is problematic, please call 311. This weekend, we will have an increase in our emergency response team. We’ve mobilized our borough operations and our special ops folks so that if our sister agency, the Fire Department, or any of our partners in government or the public report an increase in locations, we are at the ready to respond.

 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you, commissioner. Next, we’ll hear from ConEd President Matt Ketschke.

 

Matt Ketschke, President, Consolidated Edison Company of New York: Thank you. For our energy delivery system, energy infrastructure, there were no impacts from this event. We continue to monitor them. Our critical energy infrastructure is continuously monitored during the course of the event; we saw no change in status for our energy infrastructure.

 

We do have a series of protocols for after another quake event. We have initiated those. Those involve inspecting our critical facilities and working through all our facilities for inspection. Those inspections are ongoing. We haven’t identified any issues.

 

In the case of an earthquake, one of the things that from the energy side we would be concerned about is the potential for gas leaks. I encourage, if you smell gas, either call 911 or 1-800-75-CON-ED and report the gas leak. Do not assume that somebody else has reported it. If you smell gas, call us or call 911 immediately. Otherwise, we’ll continue our inspections, and all looks good.

 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you. Thank you, Matt. Next, we’ll hear from MTA CEO Janno Lieber.

 

Janno Lieber, CEO, Metropolitan Transit Authority: Good afternoon. Thank you, Mayor Adams and Commissioner Iscol. I want to reassure New Yorkers that the service on the transit system, all aspects of the transit system, maintained continuous operation safely throughout the incident, and has continued right to now. I’ve been in touch with the president of all the MTA agencies, starting with Bridges and Tunnels. Kathy Sheridan, the president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, is here, but also New York City Transit, Long Island Railroad, and Metro North.

 

Initial inspections of all facilities have been completed, and there are further inspections ongoing, emphasizing that the seven bridges operated by MTA have been inspected, and I want to emphasize those were designed to withstand much stronger seismic impacts than we experienced today.

 

Our frontline staff across the system have been instructed to report any abnormalities. There have been none so far flagged, and of course, we’re going to continue to monitor the situation very closely. We have an open communications bridge with all of our MTA agencies to report, as I said, any abnormality that they encounter. So far, the input on that has been zero.

 

We’re going to let riders know if there are any impacts to service, but there are none [thus far]. Just as the chancellor said, the school system is operating fully, so is the MTA transit system without disruptions caused by the earthquake. I want to thank Mayor Adams, your entire team, and also Governor Hochul, with whom I’ve been in touch, for their leadership throughout this challenging moment for the city and the region. Thank you.

 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you very much. Finally, we’ll hear from Manny Castro from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for a few words in Spanish.

 

Commissioner Manuel Castro, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs: Muy buenas tardes, soy Manuel Castro, el comisionado de Asuntos de los Inmigrantes de la Ciudad de Nueva York. Hoy estamos con el alcalde Eric Adams, los comisionados de varios departamentos de gobierno de la Ciudad de Nueva York para asegurar a los neoyorquinos que no estamos viendo ningún problema en nuestros servicios, ya sea de puentes, de escuelas y otros servicios críticos dentro de la Ciudad de Nueva York.

 

Reconocemos que hay ansiedad sobre el temblor que experienciamos esta mañana, pero por el momento no hay nada que reportar, seguimos con nuestra vida diaria, pero reconocemos que hay temor de que sentimos otro temblor y si ese es el caso, tomar cobertura, seguir las recomendaciones durante los temblores y tener la calma, porque eso es… Lo importante en estos momentos. Muchísimas gracias.

 

Translation: Good afternoon, I am Manuel Castro, the commissioner of Immigrant Affairs for New York City. Today we are with Mayor Eric Adams, the commissioners of several government departments in New York City to assure New Yorkers that we are not seeing any problems in our services, whether they be bridges, schools, and other critical services within the City of New York.

 

We recognize that there is anxiety about the earthquake that we experienced this morning, but at the moment there is nothing to report. We continue with our daily lives, but we recognize that there is fear that we will feel another earthquake. If that is the case, take cover, follow the recommendations during the earthquakes, and remain calm, because that is the most important thing at this time. Thank you very much.

 

Question: Mayor, first of all, did you personally feel the earthquake? If so, can you describe it? Then I have a quick question for Commissioner Otto. No, I did not. I was at Gracie Mansion at the Youth Gun Summit, and I didn’t feel it. My security detail brought it to my attention.

 

Commissioner Oddo: As of 30 minutes ago when I arrived here, we had seen no reports coming in, but we obviously will monitor and will respond accordingly.

 

Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh: We’re also monitoring 911 calls for the same thing, often to be referred to our agency partners if they are not major but still important. We’ve seen a very minor increase, about 30 additional calls [more]  than we would typically get on a Friday, and none of them were for major incidents. We will monitor for the rest of the day, of course, [and]  we will refer them as needed and make sure that anything, and I’d like to reiterate what Con Ed said, especially odors of gas, is referred accordingly to make sure that the infrastructure is safe.

 

Question: How are you? Can you walk us through what the process is of inspecting all the bridges as well as the tunnels in the subway system right now?

 

Janno Lieber: Kathy Sheridan, do you mind? Kathy, come on up. Sure. Want to talk about the bridges?

 

Catherine Sheridan, President, MTA Bridges and Tunnels: Sure. Good afternoon, I’m Kathy Sheridan, President of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. We go out and do preliminary inspections. They were dispatched within about five minutes of the earthquake occurring. All the preliminary results came back negative, no impacts to our facilities. We have also mobilized all of our structural inspection teams, which do our biennial inspections on a regular basis. They are now out on the ground. We expect to have results from them by 4 p.m. But again, we don’t expect an earthquake of this magnitude to have any impact on our facilities.

 

Question: I’m sorry. With the tunnels and the subways, what’s the process for inspecting all those?

 

Sheridan: For the subway, I won’t talk about the subways. I’ll let the chair talk about that. For our two tunnels, the Hugh Carey Tunnel and the Queens Midtown Tunnel, tunnels are very resilient for seismic impacts. They move with the ground. Again, it’s a hands-on inspection. We go and do visual inspection to see if there are any damages.

 

Lieber: Yes, and it’s exactly the same in the subway system. We have folks who routinely walk the track and inspect structure as well as track, and those protocols are in place.

 

Question: The NotifyNYC earthquake went out about 20 minutes, a little bit more, after the earthquake. The Deputy Mayor was tweeting, the Governor was tweeting at that point. I guess, why did that go out so much later than the actual earthquake?

 

Commissioner Iscol: The notify message? Yes. I think 20 minutes’ time to target is pretty fast for a public notification. First off, there’s a lot of work we have to do to make sure we’re getting confirmation from USGS that this was actually an earthquake. There’s a lot of things that can because buildings to shake. Two, we also need to make sure we’re putting out the proper guidance. 20 minutes is very, very fast for a public notification.

 

Question: USGS actually tweeted about five minutes after it happened, though. Again, where is that 15 minutes?

 

Commissioner Iscol: In addition to that, they are confirming that there is an earthquake. Then there is also making sure that we’re updating the guidance, right? In addition to that, with Notify, as we put this out in 14 languages, including American Sign Language.

 

Question: You mentioned the mayor and the governor.

 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you. Zach, maybe it would be helpful to say also if there’s a difference between during an earthquake and after an earthquake.

 

Commissioner Iscol: Yes. There’s also guidance that’s different for both during an earthquake and after an earthquake, right? During an earthquake, we want to make sure people are following the proper guidance, that they’re staying inside a building, that they’re getting under furniture while the earthquake is actually occurring.

 

Then also, we need to make sure we’re putting out the right information, so people know what to do afterwards, that they’re taking the right precautions. You’ve heard some of that from our partners at Con Ed about gas leaks, about what to do if there are aftershocks, about whether or not you are informing people that they should be going about their normal course of business or whether or not there is a high likelihood of aftershocks, right?

 

All of that needs to be confirmed to make sure we’re getting the right information out to the public. That takes a little bit of time. I think our team did a remarkable job today in getting it out to the public.

 

Question: Commissioner Iscol, could you walk us through what the city’s protocol is when you are suspecting an earthquake? What exactly happens?

 

Commissioner Iscol: Well, this is a no-notice event, right? There’s no suspecting an earthquake, a no-notice event, unlike a weather event. What do you launch into once you say, hey, we think this is what’s going to happen? Yes.

 

The first thing in any type of emergency, whether it’s a notice or no-notice event, a no-notice one being an explosion, an act of terrorism, a mass shooting, something that was not forecasted, unlike a weather event.

 

In these cases, the number one thing that you’re looking at is are there concerns that are life safety concerns, right? Are we getting an overwhelming number of 911 calls? Is the Fire Department, do we have collapsed buildings? Is there an emergency response that we need to immediately respond to? Number two is then checking in with all of our partners across the city to make sure that there are no cascading impacts that we also need to address. Are there things that, while there might not be life safety events, are there issues to our utilities? Are there issues to our transportation networks? About our schools, that was one of the number one concerns about making sure that everything is okay with our kids who are in schools today.

 

Then the next piece of that is also, at the same time, getting information out to the public, making sure that it is the right guidance, given the circumstances, given the projections for what might come next. All of that is what the team is doing here and coordinating with all the incredible partners that behind us. Thank you.

 

Question: Anyone, mayor, and I don’t know if this would be for a team member or not, but anyone using their cell phone in the last hour knows it’s been difficult. We’ve heard your administration give the warnings about when to and when to not call 911. Is the 911 system getting a little overwhelmed right now? Are you worried about the cell phone towers?

 

Police Commissioner Edward Caban: As far as the 911 system is concerned and the 311 system, we’ve seen an uptick starting at 10:30 and it’s subsided to its normal call volume by 11 a.m. Right now, it stands at its normal call volume.

 

Question: Any read on what’s going on with the cell phone towers and any concerns about that?

 

Deputy Mayor Levy: One thing also I would just point out, we had an uptick in 311 calls. Obviously, we know there was an earthquake. Our teams are on the ground, so we don’t need that anymore. Thank you very much to New Yorkers. Thank you so much.

Banner Image: Earthquake damage. Image Credit – kayelleallen


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