Brooklyn pols demand state probe of blackouts

Bay Ridgeite June Marcus and her husband Robert Hutt were stuck in an elevator in an Upper West Side building when the blackout hit Manhattan on July 13. “The elevator suddenly stopped and it was pitch black,” Marcus told the Home Reporter. “But we had just gotten into the elevator, so I knew we weren’t that high up. We were probably only on the second floor.”

Within 10 minutes, the building’s back-up generator kicked in and the elevator resumed working.

Marcus and Hutt walked out of the building and onto the street, where they encountered crowds of people walking around with confused looks on their faces. “Everyone looked stunned. No one knew what to do. You saw police directing traffic. You heard fire engines. But it was still light out at that point. People were very calm and were trying to help each other,” Marcus said.

The couple walked over to the East Side, caught an express bus at Madison Avenue and 57th Street and took the bus home to Bay Ridge.

“We were lucky,” Marcus said.

The big blackout in Manhattan, which knocked out power to more than 70,000 customers and closed Broadway theaters for the night, was just one of many problems with electricity in New York City in recent weeks, according to two Brooklyn lawmakers who are demanding that New York State take action.

Councilmembers Justin Brannan and Mark Treyger are asking the Public Service Commission to investigate Con Edison in the wake of service disruptions in Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods like Gravesend, Bath Beach and Coney Island. Brannan, a Democrat, represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst. Treyger is a Democrat whose Council district covers Coney Island and Gravesend, and includes parts of Bensonhurst.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has requested that the New York State Public Service Commission investigate Con Ed and the Manhattan blackout. Brannan and Treyger are asking for a Brooklyn probe to be part of that investigation.

The councilmembers reacted angrily when a power outage took place on July 17 in Gravesend.

According to the New York City Office of Emergency Management, a Con Ed crew was at Stillwell Avenue and Avenue Z in Gravesend on the morning of July 17 to address a power outage apparently caused by downed power lines. The disruption affected 1,172 customers.

“This is completely unacceptable that another service outage has occurred in New York City leaving Con Edison customers without power, impacting vulnerable residents in Gravesend, Bath Beach, some of Coney Island, the Block Institute, which serves children and adults with disabilities, and small businesses in the neighborhoods,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement.

Earlier this summer, there was a service disruption in Dyker Heights.

“Frequently, service outages have occurred in Gravesend, Bath Beach, and Dyker Heights as well, and our offices have documented and met with Con Edison in the past, but they continue to happen. Residents need answers and we demand answers to this recurrent event,” Brannan and Treyger said.

James Denn, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Public Service, said the agency is looking into the Manhattan blackout.

“The Department of Public Service will review any and all possible causes of the outage. As directed by Governor Cuomo, DPS is conducting its own independent investigation into the incident, and it would be premature to suggest a possible cause before that investigation is complete,” he told the Home Reporter in an email.

Con Edison declined to address the probe or the councilmembers’ demand in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle, but touted its ongoing investment into powering the city.

“We are privileged to be the energy provider for the world’s greatest city and proud that our electric service is among the most reliable in the nation. We invest $1.5 billion a year on new feeder cables, transformers, substation upgrades and other equipment that keeps the system robust,” a spokesperson for Con Ed said. “When outages occur our crews respond efficiently and professionally to get customers back in service. We are mobilized to do just that during this weekend’s heat wave.”

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