Residents Express Frustration Over Con Ed's Slow Response to Power Outage

Lane4Photo by Mary Blumenthal LaneAs of the morning of Sunday August 9, 1,438 customers were without power in Scarsdale with Con Ed projecting restoration by Monday August 10 at 3 pm, making the outage almost a full week for over 1,000 Scarsdale residents. By 9 pm that night, Con Ed had made significant progress, reducing the outages to 780 customers, about 12 percent of the Village’s customers.

Scarsdale waited a long time for help. After five days of almost no progress, on Sunday morning, the following update was posted on the Village’s twitter feed: “Con Ed reports that there are eight crews working in #Scarsdale today. Five Line Crews working on area restorations and three Line and Ladder crews, which resolve issues on individual properties.”

Commenting on the long delay for restoration, Scarsdale Village Trustee Justin Arest, shared the Village’s Tweet, “We are fuming over the Con Ed response in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias. At the same time, we continue to work collaboratively to move toward full restoration. There is no good excuse for the repeated extended outages the Con Ed territory experiences.”

He told Scarsdale10583, “Right now the focus is getting power back to all of our residents. But, I believe we need to get various levels of government in front of us right away to get answers as to what happened but perhaps more importantly, find out how we can exact actual change. Their previous assurances that “next time will be different” were obviously empty and we must not ask for better but demand it.

This is not the first time that Con Edison has held the Village hostage. After each storm, lengthy meetings are held with public officials, decisions are reached, promises are made and then forgotten. During Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, much of the Village was without power for 12 days. In March 2018 a Nor'easter knocked out power to half the Village and some were without power for 12 days. After both storms, residents waited for days while Con Edison said trees and debris needed to be cleared before power could be restored. Then they waited for crews to arrive from the South, Midwest and even Canada to repair the power lines. The utility agreed to make changes after both of these debacles, but it seems their response to this storm is an instant replay of previous performances.

We reached out to Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick, who said, “I have heard many heart wrenching stories from dozens of residents about the power outage’s impact on their health conditions, causing poor sanitary conditions, causing struggles for the elderly, causing discomfort for new born babies and, sadly, even more difficulties.”

“I have also seen the best of our community come out of this darkness. I was speaking with a line crew from Michigan this morning when a woman dropped off bagels for the crew. I have seen neighbors helping neighbors with a place to stay, power-up, clean up, wash clothes, get out of the heat and more. The generosity of Scarsdale’s spirit and its sense of community are once again on vivid display and I couldn’t be more proud to call Scarsdale home.”

“The fact that Scarsdale is again dealing with a wholly inadequate response to storm damage and power outages is appalling. The repeated shortcomings of Con Ed in storm after storm are infuriating and the company has to be held accountable. Substantive changes to storm preparation and response must be made. Proactive tree work must be completed. The Village will be very clear in its communication to the Public Service Commission, our State representatives, and Con Ed about the lackadaisical response to this storm and about changes that must finally be implemented to Con Ed’s storm response policies and actions.”

Patience had worn thin for some of the residents who suffered through almost a week without air conditioning, during a week that temperatures soared to the 80’s and 90’s.

Greenacres resident Mary Blumenthal Lane vented her frustration. She explained, “My husband needs a medical device to sleep at night and when he called Con Ed to find out what the story is they told him to call 911.”

She continued, “It is hot and I have a freezer full so of meat that I will lose at this rate. The one thing I really miss is ice cannot get a cold drink at home now. The dog is unable to cool down I am worried about her. My patience has run very thin I am bitching at people I do not know just because they have power and we do not. Six days (without power) is unacceptable. It is hot and humid and we have neighbors who have power who keep lighting smoky fires in their yard every night and since we have our windows open to try to cool down the house at night the smoke comes inside and makes it difficult to breathe.”

“Oh and I think the worst part is trying to sleep at night with all those loud generators going in the area. There needs to be a noise ordinance enacted. Not to mention you cannot sleep at night so you try to nap during the day and those damn leaf blowers are busy.”

“The first time we reported the outage we were told the power would be back Saturday, lip service. Still no power on Sunday. I saw some workmen in a Con Ed truck Thursday who got power back to two houses on Brite Avenue. When I asked about Donellan Road where there are 8 houses in the dark they told me that a crew would be over later that day -- again lip service. They do not care.”

It is time for someone to dismantle the monopoly and find a company who cares. But unfortunately I think all states have this same issue.”

Susan Fromer in Heathcote agreed. She said, “Five days and counting, out of power. This is one of the wealthiest counties in the country and even here the electrical system is woefully antiquated. If we do not support our infrastructure, the integrity and function of our society will surely fade. All roads used to lead to Rome until the roads crumbled.”

The Lyons family in Greenacres also had a long week. They said, “Con Ed knew that the storm was coming and had no plan in place for how to handle the outages from the storm, and if they had a plan, they did not communicate it or execute it. Once we lost power, Con Edison could not communicate to us our estimated time of power restoration for several days. When they finally communicated that our power would be restored by Monday 11pm, we made hotel reservations, and at that point, there were not many rooms available. We were happy that the power was restored earlier than projected, but we had to deal with the hassle of getting a refund from the hotel. We did get a full refund. It is time for Con Edison to bury our power lines so this does not continue to happen.”

We reached Melanie Spivack, who is the President of the Quaker Ridge Neighborhood Association who had lots to say:

“As the neighborhood President, I have always believed that aside from meeting your neighbors and making new friends, the most important role I can play is communication for and communication by the residents of the association. Through our monthly SNAP meetings, all the Presidents hear the Mayor’s report of up-to-date information about Village actions and activities. We also have an opportunity to speak with the Mayor about Village issues pertaining to our residents. Aside from the Mayor, we meet with various other Village staff and organizations including the school Board and exchange ideas and information.

Unfortunately, once again our Village was hit hard by a storm. But, once again, all the preparedness our Village takes, has no effect on the response by Con Edison.

I have lived here for 27 years, and Con Edison’s response with their lack of preparedness, lack of equipment, lack of technology, lack of organization and most of all, lack of communication, has not changed. Each and every storm that affected our power, has had an inadequate response by Con Ed. They don’t respond to homeowners, and they do not have the technology to know what poles and wires are affected by a storm and are solely relying upon their customers to call them to let them about an outage. They send personnel out in cars to visually look at each and every pole to determine any damage. This has been going on for all the 27 years I have lived here, nothing has changed. Con Ed has demonstrated that they are not accountable to anyone, least of all their customers. For that reason, I have been encouraging the residents to reach out to our elected officials, providing phone numbers, email addresses and twitter handles, as I believe that the only impact we can have on Con Ed is through pressure from our elected representatives. And, our elected representatives should know that they are responsible for representing us and if they cannot, we will make our voices heard at the ballot box. I have also been encouraging residents to reach out to the NYS Department of Public Service to and file a complaint. I don’t believe in sitting back and complaining, I believe it’s our responsibility to take action, even if it means getting in a car, searching for a Con Ed truck and getting information from the crew foreman.

The good news is that I can communicate to approximately 125 homes in the neighborhood by email and social media. The majority of these homes have been without power since the storm on Tuesday and are not expected to get power back before this Tuesday or Wednesday. I believe that having information, whether it be good or bad, is better than being kept in the dark (no pun intended). I have been able to pass on any up-to-the minute information, sometimes multiple times per day, from the Mayor and from other neighborhood Presidents. We have organized food trucks across neighborhoods and now we have organized a buddy system. We are teaming up those residents who have power with residents who do not. We are cognizant of restrictions due to COVID, so Wifi access and power outlets are being offered from front porches and back yards. I have been so impressed by the outpouring of help from neighbor to neighbor. Unfortunately, it’s times like these that bring out the best in people. Scarsdale is a close-knit community, with residents who care.

Sarah Bell who heads up the group of neighborhood organizations has been heartened by their response in this time of crisis. She told me that one man in her neighborhood set up a charging station in his driveway so that neighbors could recharge all their devices. In West Quaker Ridge a resident arranged for the restaurant Hiill Country Barbeque to send a food truck to serve dinners to residents who had no power to cook. The neighborhood associations managed traffic issues due to road closures, handed out ice pops and ice packs, and even arranged an informal buddy system to match those with power to those who do not to see how they could help.

Bell said, “The SNAP Presidents as a group are an incredible, caring, hard working and responsive network of communication and resources for the community and the team work within the group this past week has been nothing short of admirable.”