NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Council held a hearing to look at Mayor Eric Adams' response to the Canadian wildfire smoke on Wednesday.
"The COVID pandemic should have helped us deliver speedy and accurate information around this issue," said Jumaane Williams, New York City Public Advocate.
Williams and council members raised concerns about how and when New Yorkers were notified about dangerous air coming in from Canada.
The air moved in on June 6 and stuck around, causing the skies to glow orange, and many people felt a raw, burning sensation in their eyes and throat. For some breathing was difficult.
The effects of hundreds of wildfires burning across the western provinces to Quebec could be felt as far away as the city and New England.
This kind of air quality is a new phenomenon and one that has a lot to do with climate change, the problem is forecasting for something like this.
"Forecasting any weather is difficult, but air quality in particular, in particular air quality caused by smoke. Just where we are on the science of forecasting air pollution," said Zach Iscol, Commissioner of NYC Emergency Management.
Iscol says the forecast for air quality for those days was only expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, and alerts went out about that.
He said he was proud of the city's robust response.
As the Air Quality Index shot up to 484, more action was taken.
Masks were distributed, outdoor events were canceled, schools scaled back outdoor activities, and the mayor alerted New Yorkers about the dangerous air quality in a press conference.
"I think had the mayor and commissioner done a press conference sooner," Williams said, "when the sky caught on fire even though we weren't able to prepare for that."
Even Williams conceded it was hard to prepare for, and the mayor tried to put it all in perspective.
"Think about it for a moment. What should we have done, put out the fires? Come on," Adams said in a televised interview.
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