Dyker power outage outrages residents

DYKER HEIGHTS — What a turkey!

A power outage left thousands of Dyker Heights residents without electricity at the tail end of the long Thanksgiving weekend, according to local officials, who said the power was off for about three hours on Sunday afternoon.

Approximately 3,600 Con Edison customers living in an area located between 11th Avenue and 13th Avenue from 67th Street to 85th Street lost electricity. Con Ed immediately dispatched repair crews to the neighborhood to address the situation, officials said.

It’s not clear what caused the Dec. 1 power outage. “I heard it was caused by a transformer going out,” Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone told the Home Reporter. “But I really don’t know what happened.”

Vella-Marrone was among the 3,600 customers who lost power. She periodically checked on an elderly neighbor.

The famous Dyker Heights Christmas lights display, the holiday-time treat featuring scores of homes decorated with thousands of twinkling lights and giant Santa Claus figures, reindeer and angels, was not affected by the power outage, said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10.

“By 5 p.m., the electricity was back,” Beckmann told the Home Reporter.

Board 10 covers Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge.

Thanksgiving Weekend marked the start of the Dyker Heights Christmas lights viewing season. The display, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, lasts until New Year’s Day.

Dyker Heights has been hit with at least three power outages this year alone, frustrated local residents said.

“It’s a regular occurrence,” Vella-Marrone. “It’s very frustrating. We pay a large amount in property taxes. We pay our Con Ed bills. And we’re not getting our money’s worth.”

Part of the problem, according to Beckmann, is the neighborhood’s infrastructure. In the majority of sections of Dyker Heights, electrical wires are located above ground. Most New York City neighborhoods have underground wiring. “Our infrastructure is above ground. It’s susceptible to wind and sleet,” she said.

Councilmember Justin Brannan, who said he understands residents’ anger, called for the wires to be placed underground.

“Every time the wind blows, there is a risk that Dyker Heights will lose power. Con Ed needs to step up and secure the infrastructure so that residents don’t have to stock up on candles every time there is a storm. The long-term fix here would be to bury the power lines, bringing the neighborhood power grid into the 21st century,” Brannan told the Home Reporter in an email.

The electrical wires were placed above ground decades ago, Vella-Marrone said.

The Dyker Heights Civic Association has made several calls over the years to the city to get rid of overhead electrical wires and replace them with wires buried below ground.

“Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the Dyker Heights Civic Association lobbied to get the wires put underground,” Vella-Marrone said. “There are a few locations in the community where we were able to get it done. But most of the community has wires hanging overhead.”

The process of moving the above-ground electrical wires underground would be expensive and involved, according to Beckmann. “But it would be worth doing,” she added.

It could cost millions of dollars, local officials said.

Con Ed would take the lead and do the actual work on it, Beckmann said. The utility would have to work closely with the city’s Department of Transportation to determine exactly where to place the wiring underground. “DOT has the maps of the infrastructure below the streets,” she said.

In addition, Con Ed would also have to work with other utilities, like Verizon Fios, to avoid interfering with their wiring, Beckmann said.

There is no estimate available on the cost of such a project, local officials said.

“In recent years, when we’ve asked, the city and Con Ed told us it would be cost prohibitive,” Vella-Marrone said.

Beckmann said Board 10 has also been told it would be too expensive to do. “But it’s something that needs to be considered, for the sake of people in Dyker Heights,” she said.

Con Ed seemed to echo Beckmann. According to a spokesperson, moving overhead power systems underground would require “extensive excavation, causing significant disruption to neighborhoods.”

“The cost can run into millions of dollars per mile. Also customers would have to make underground connections that could cost them thousands of dollars,” the rep added, noting that overhead power lines have some upsides.

“While overhead power lines are exposed to weather all year long, they can be repaired more quickly and less expensively than underground systems,” they said, noting that “underground systems are also susceptible to the effects of weather, especially in the summer months.”

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