By Alex Edelman, Mayor, Village of Lawrence
Eli Kutner, Candidate, Village of Lawrence Trustee
Pesach Osina, Candidate, NYC Council District 31
Paris Popack, President, Lawrence Association, candidate, Village of Lawrence Trustee
On Tuesday, August 4, when Tropical Storm Isaias hit the greater New York Area with winds in excess of 70 miles per hour, the community was left reeling. As the winds subsided on Tuesday afternoon, the magnitude of the damage was evident. Utility poles were cut in half, uprooted trees left our roads inaccessible, and fallen trees destroyed cars and severely damaged power lines.
The loss of power from the storm left thousands of PSEG customers immobilized. Not only were our residents left in the dark, there was no cohesive plan to restore things back to normal.
Public Service Electric & Gas (PSEG) LI ineptitude was ironic considering what brought them into our neighborhood in the first place. Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) failed miserably in restoring power following Superstorm Sandy. In 2014, PSEG LI took over the reins and currently operates the electric transmission and distribution system to over 1.1 million customers.
Throughout the course of the past week, over 420,000 of their customers were listed to be without power. The damage incurred by those who lost money compensating for lack of power, suffered medical concerns for loved ones on electrically controlled apparati, and overall fear and confusion cannot be recouped. While we hope that by the time this goes to press all the power has been restored, the lackluster initial response from PSEG LI is frustrating and troubling. There were instances of businesses losing all their refrigerated and frozen merchandise and elderly residents without electricity to power their medical equipment. While manpower is a must for restoration and there are limits to how many people can immediately rush to restore power, their communication via phone and the internet was dismal. One woman recounts calling ten times to report her outage. When she finally pressed 1 to speak to a representative, after a long pause, the automated response suggested she call back later.
“Storms happen and that’s disconcerting but expected. Not having a clear expectation of restoration left us confused about how much effort we should put into finding places to sleep and salvaging the contents of our refrigerators and freezers. It’s not just the slow response to fix the wires, but the wires of communication were not crossed, they didn’t even exist,” said Chaia Frishman, Far Rockaway resident and owner of Fruit Platters & More.
We pay thousands of dollars in utility bills every year to service us with the necessary tools needed to function from day to day. It goes without saying that it’s expected that weather difficulties can sometimes impede that goal. But knowing this, PSEG should have had protocols in place including subcontracting workers from areas not hit and expanding their call center to receive and document all those trying to reach them.
It is incumbent on our community to call for an investigation into the lack of response from PSEG LI. PSEG LI continues to leave to its customers, community organizations, and stakeholders in the dark. During any power outage, the residents expect real and timely restoration information to enable those affected to properly prepare for their own next steps. We hope that this initiative will yield answers and prevent future disasters.
“What I find most frustrating when a disaster such as this occurs and when residents call, there should be someone that can give accurate information as to the status of the condition. The lack of information causes more anxiety,” said Alex Edelman.
“While my family was lucky, many of our friends and neighbors did not have their power back on by Shabbos, over four days later. This is inexcusable for any public/private utility. Further confounding was the inability of citizens to access any reliable information from PSEG. Despite Mayor Edelman’s tireless efforts in liaising with their senior executives to control the crisis, PSEG continued to remain unreliable in managing our expectations. The citizens of Lawrence deserve and demand better than the poor performance of PSEG,” said Eli Kutner.
“I support and will work along with other local villages to join in an investigation as to what happened, and how our local residents should be compensated for the mishandling of this storm recovery and how to avoid this in the future,” said Paris Popack.
“Since the storm hit residents throughout the Rockaways we’re seeking relevant and up to date information from PSEG without avail,” said Pesach Osina. “Every business should have a disaster communication plan should their existing one fail. It is unacceptable that a company of this nature would just leave their customers in the dark.”