City officials call on Con Edison to give rebate to Queens customers who lost power during storm

Photo courtesy of the office of acting Borough President Sharon Lee

With thousands of Con Edison customers in Queens still without power a week after Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through New York, Acting Borough President Sharon Lee blasted the power company on Tuesday, Aug. 11.

Finding fault in Con Edison’s level of preparation and their “inequitable and disproportionate pace of power restoration,” Lee, a handful of elected officials at various levels of government, community board members and Queens residents affected by the outages called for a full rebate in August for the 73,000 customers who lost power as a result of the storm on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

“Con Edison has the power now to choose to do right by its Queens customers for the prolonged trauma and danger imposed upon them,” Lee said. “I urge Con Edison to offer immediate and full rebates to the 73,000 Queens customers on this month’s bill to remedy this disproportionate and inequitable restoration. It is the very least Con Edison can do.”

According to Lee, there is precedent for Con Edison clearing customers’ energy bill following widespread outages. In 2006, a Con Edison power outage left 174,000 people in the borough in the dark. It was later determined that the power company had failed to address issues with power equipment which, in turn, caused the outages.

The power company agreed to a settlement that provided $17 million to customers affected by the outages, half of which went toward bill credits.

By Tuesday, Aug. 11, over 2,740 customers in Queens were experiencing outages, although not all outages were a direct result of the storm, according to Con Edison.

Tropical Storm Isaias brought with it the second-largest outage event in the company’s history. At its peak, more than 73,000 customers were without power in Queens. It also brought down a high number of trees, with over 9,000 complaints of downed trees in Queens made to the New York City Parks Department 24 hours after the storm.

While Lee and her colleagues took issue with the number of outages, they also want answers for what they see as a slow response to restore power from Con Edison.

By Saturday, Aug. 8, around 14,000 customers in Queens were still without power, accounting for over half of the outages remaining in the city, according to Lee. A higher percentage of customers had their power restored by the company in all four other boroughs.

“Con Edison’s recovery following Tropical Storm Isaias has been inadequate, sporadic and unacceptable,” said New York State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “I understand restoring power to 73,000 homes in Queens is a difficult task, but leaving thousands without power nearly a week after the storm is just plain dangerous. Con Ed needs to be held accountable for their listless response.”

According to Con Edison, the company assess which repairs will restore power for the highest number of customers and prioritizes those repairs.

“We restore power in blocks. The damage that impacts the most customers,” Con Edison President Tim Cawley said during an interview with NY1 Monday morning. “If we clear up two trees and can restore 1,000 customers, we do that, and we work our way down. So early in the storm, the outage numbers drop precipitously because we’re working the largest storm numbers first. At the end, we’re working scattered outages, where there is significant labor with less customers restored.”

Even Queens residents who didn’t lose their power feel as though they’ve been let down by Con Edison.

Yalena Figueroa, a photographer in Astoria, has been without internet for a week. Figueroa, who relies on the internet for work and has two children, said that her internet connection cut out around 3 p.m. on the day of the storm. Although she never lost power, a downed Con Edison wire on her block has prevented her internet provider from being able to restoring service.

“Con Edison keeps telling us, ‘tomorrow it will be fixed,’ but we’re going on a week now,” Figueroa said. “We’ve been told every day that someone is coming. But no one ever comes.”

According to Figueroa, Con Edison has been sending a worker to sit by the downed wire in 12-hour shifts, warning people to stay away from it. However, no one has attempted to make the final repair.

“It’s just negligence at this point,” Figueroa said.

This story first appeared on our sister publication qns.com.