Elected officials demanded answers from Con Edison on Tuesday evening, as over 1,000 customers in Brooklyn remained without power following a one-two punch from Mother Nature.
In a letter to Con Edison president and CEO John McAvoy, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said he understands that the utility company is still investigating the causes, but the intentional outage in Brooklyn on Sunday raised a host of questions, including why such a decision is made and who approves it.
"I am concerned that preparations for any heat waves may not be as adequate as necessary, and that many of our [city’s] most vulnerable residents will pay the price," Williams continues in the letter, dated Tuesday. "I know your organization is aware of how vital the resiliency and continuous operation of the grid is to the daily lives of all New Yorkers."
Con Edison has been working to restore electricity since Sunday, when the utility company said it had to cut power to about 30,000 Brooklyn customers in order to prevent a larger blackout from occurring. The weekend’s intense heat (and increased air-conditioning usage) also impacted thousands of customers in Queens.
But as crews were bringing folks back online Monday evening, a severe thunderstorm rolled through the city, complicating Con Ed’s progress. The outage numbers in Brooklyn and Queens shot up, and new outages popped up in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. By Tuesday morning, over 6,000 customers in Brooklyn and Queens were without electricity.
"We’re working as expeditiously as possible to restore power to our customers," Con Ed spokeswoman Anne Marie Corbalis said.
Most people had power restored by Tuesday afternoon. However, about 1,000 customers in Brooklyn were still in the dark, as of 7:30 p.m. Con Ed said it expected power to be restored between 7 and 11 p.m., but elected officials weren’t convinced.
State Sen. Zellnor Myrie and Assemb. Diana Richardson, who both represent swaths of Brooklyn, held a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the shade of a brick apartment building on Hawthorne Street, between Rogers and Nostrand avenues, in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
Myrie said he initially received a low-voltage notification on Sunday that did not specify an outage for the block but then there was a complete outage, and there have only been low-voltage restorations since mid-Monday.
"What’s frustrating about this is Con Ed has not been transparent with us," Myrie added.
Patricia Brown, who lives on the block, said her fridge barely works and she still has no air conditioning. "I took four showers Sunday night," she added.
Richardson said none of the elevators in buildings along the block are working because of the low voltage, and she expressed concerns for the elderly residents who rely on them.
"This is a miscarriage of justice for the Central Brooklyn community, and we are asking Con Edison and the city for a coordinated response to happen immediately," she added.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have also called for independent investigations into Con Ed’s power failures.