It’s LIPA’s fault!
Seventeen families whose Breezy Point homes were disintegrated in raging fires during Hurricane Sandy plan to file a negligence suit against the Long Island Power Authority for allegedly causing the inferno, The Post has learned.Â
In their notices of claim filed with LIPA, the homeowners charge that LIPA kept the power on in the Rockaway Peninsula during Sandy’s peak surge last Oct. 28 – allowing the mixture of seawater and electricity to explode into a wind-swept fireball that leveled 130 homes.
Each family is asking for at least $1 million in damages.
“This can never be allowed to happen again to another community,” fumed Regina Hegarty, whose home at 7 Hudson Walk, where she and her husband, Dave, had resided since 1978, was incinerated.
“Someone has to hold LIPA responsible. They have to learn a lesson. This was awful,” Hegarty said.
Legal papers filed by the law firm of Sullivan, Papain, Block, McGrath and Cannavo said LIPA’s decision to keep the juice flowing in the Rockaway peninsula as a whole contrasted with preventive actions taken by Con Edison, which provides power to the rest of the city.
Con Ed shut power in lower Manhattan and much of the shore front on Brooklyn in the eye of Sandy’s path before the tidal surge hit.
LIPA even shut off electricity on Fire Island during Sandy – as well during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 – “to avoid fires and other risks that would require a personnel response not possible during the storm,” the legal papers said.
“Unlike respondent Long Island Power Authority, Con Ed took action to de-energize its electrical system in areas expected to flood,” lawyer Robert Sullivan said in the legal papers.
“The result of the seawater and/or other water generated by the storm surge coming into these features of [LIPA’s] electrical system,” Sullivan said, caused the “ignition of fires in Breezy Point.”
The notices of claim were filed with LIPA, a state-run utility, yesterday and last Friday,
“All they had to do was shut down the power during the peak of Sandy, and that would have avoided the fires,” Sullivan said.
“We’re struggling to help these people. The insurance companies aren’t treating them right. LIPA is not treating them right. FEMA is not treating them right.”
Regina Hegarty had been living in the Breezy Point area since she was 13 years old. And she and her husband, five sons and 13 grand children enjoyed the white and green bungalow at 7 Hudson Walk that had been immaculately maintained for decades..
“We just can’t get past this. It’s so upsetting to this day. It was more than a house. It was a way of life,” she said.
While much of the controversy in the aftermath of Sandy centered on complaints about the slow pace of power being restored, there was virtually no discussion about power not being shut in the Rockaways during the hurricane – except for those whose homes were burned to a crisp.
“We were shocked that the utilities were never turned off. That was crazy. I can’t believe it,” Hegarty said.
When asked about the negligence case, a LIPA spokeswoman said, “We are not aware of any filing.”