The night of November 30th, I spent working the phones to find out why thousands of Middle Village and Maspeth residents lost power, yet again, in what felt like an ordinary rainstorm.
While Con Edison worked to get the power back on, the under-resourced 104th Precinct had to maintain public safety in a dangerous situation. It was not until five hours after the power went out that the 104th Precinct was provided additional police officers. The lack of planning left me deeply concerned.
Following the outage, I met with the DOT, Con Edison, NYPD, and the Office of Emergency Management about the lack of planning for power outages. We learned that our overhead lines do not perform as well relative to the rest of the city. Additionally, on the night of November 30th, equipment meant to isolate power outages failed, resulting in a large bang you may have heard. Immediately following this equipment failure, thousands of households lost power. Not only did the power fail, but there was no plan in place for city agencies to assist affected neighborhoods.
Considering all the power outages we have suffered in the 30th Council District, I would expect city agencies to coordinate with each other more effectively. Next time a storm occurs, I expect our precinct to get additional resources immediately, not sev- eral hours later. Another issue we discussed was the inability of the DOT to get traffic lights back on. The DOT has since agreed to examine models in European cities where traffic lights have solar panels and backup generators that activate during power outages. We know power outages will happen again. My staff and I are having ongoing conversations to ensure city agencies perform better the next time we lose power.
Ultimately, our infrastructure is not meeting the needs of the community, and more investment from Con Edison is needed. Con Edison took a step in the right direction when they launched a pilot program in Middle Village to put new power lines underground. More overhead lines moved underground will improve efficiency and reduce the number of power outages. A bonus of underground lines is that it reduces overhead lines, improving our urban landscape’s aesthetics. As a community, we pay high taxes and expect a comparable level of city services in return. Keeping the power on when it rains is the minimum level of service we should expect.
None of our electric grid problems have a single-source solution, nor will they be solved overnight. While investments are important, they will take time to come to fruition. Common calls my staff take are concerns about decaying utility poles, reporting on downed power lines, and ensuring tree branches do not become too entangled with power lines. We are also working closely with Con Edison and utility companies to remove the 46 “double poles”, which populate the 30th Council District (pictured).
My office will continue to work with Con Edison and other city agencies to ensure we get the services we deserve. Please continue to contact my office about any issues affecting our quality of life. Together, we will keep our neighborhoods some of the best places to live in all of New York City.