Editorial | It’s time to bury the power lines all across New York City

Photo via Twitter/@ConEdison

When Tropical Storm Isaias blew through New York City on Aug. 4, he brought some furious winds that did the most damage in the city’s tree-lined residential havens.

The toppled trees brought down overhead power lines in communities across Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. Thousands were thrown into the dark that afternoon, and many of them remained without power as of Thursday.

Con Edison stated that it prepared for Isaias-related power outages and brought in additional crews to hasten the repairs. Still, the utility company indicated that it may take until Aug. 9 until all who lost power during the storm are back online.

Bad as this situation is, the sad reality is that this has happened before — and it will happen again. Much of the same areas that lost power during Isaias lost power during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 

After Sandy, there was a call among some legislators and residents to move the wires underground at last, but it never came to fruition. Why? Because it’s too expensive. Estimated costs for such a conversion are about a million dollars per mile — and there are hundreds of miles to be converted.

Con Edison is a for-profit company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange for upwards of $73 a share as of Aug. 6. A project of this magnitude eats into their bottom line in a big way.

The state and city didn’t have the resources to undertake this effort, and now they’re mired in a major recession. Still, the power situation in New York City is untenable, and it calls for a bold solution.

The time has come for a major public works project, in partnership with Con Edison, to move the overhead wires underground across the five boroughs within the next five years. This can be funded through a combination of public bond sales and private fund-raising.

We’ve seen public-private partnerships before in building arenas for sports franchises or redeveloping properties, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it to rebuild and modernize our power grid — which would benefit every New Yorker in every neighborhood.

And it comes with the added benefit of creating new jobs to re-energize our economy and put thousands back to work.

We shouldn’t shortchange ourselves any longer. Let’s upgrade our entire power grid and, at long last, bury the lines already!