As Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee documented over the past week, Queens made up the bulk of New York City customers who lost power. But while more than 80 percent of Brooklyn and Staten Island customers got their power back within the first 48 hours, less than 60 percent of Queens customers got the same result.
As Lee pointed out at the rally at Queens Borough Hall last week, not a single community board in the borough – and Queens has 14 of them – was spared of extensive and dangerous delays in restoration.
The acting borough president wants Con Edison to give rebates to the 76,000 Queens customers who were affected on their August bills. That’s the first step to remedying the slight.
The state legislature, as well as the Public Service Commission, will hold hearings about and investigate what went wrong with the response from not just Con Edison, but also PSE&G and other utility companies.
We hope these investigations and hearings will lead to actionable reforms that will force these private utilities to not only be better prepared for storm resiliency, but start investing in the necessary infrastructure to prevent massive power outages seemingly every year.
While there is overwhelming support for reform among lawmakers, there’s a smaller but equally vocal group of legislators who are pushing for public power, or the concept that government should be generating and distributing energy to residents.
At first, it appeared that public power was just popular among left-leaning elected officials. But even State Senator Leroy Comrie, not a notable leftist, said he’s starting to lean in that direction when it comes to power.
Perhaps the highest-ranking city official to come out in favor is Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, whose office has laid out a plan for a municipal grid. It starts with expanding the New York Power Authority, which is a publicly owned entity, followed by acquiring Con Edison’s electrical grid.
The first step would be passing legislation requesting home rule from the state, which is admittedly not an easy task. Williams himself said it could take many years to achieve, but it’s worth starting now.
Several elected officials have now put Con Edison on notice.