Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, Congressman Gregory Meeks and Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. joined with community members today at the St. Francis De Sales Church in Belle Harbor to demand action for their hard hit Queens communities. They were joined by State Senator Malcolm Smith, Delores Orr, Chair of Community Board 14, Jon Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14, Hank Iori, President of Belle Harbor Property Owner’s Association, Vivian Carter, Rockaway Resident and Historian, Steve Stathis, Owner of Boarder’s Surf Shop, and Dan Mundy, Jr., President of Broad Channel Civic Association.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the New York City area more than a week ago. Southern Queens and the Rockaways were among the most devastated areas, experiencing significant destruction of homes, businesses and other buildings as a result of high winds, flooding and fire. Despite being one of the hardest hit communities, residents remain without power as a result of miscommunication, lack of coordination and disorganization.
“The coordination and efforts to restore power and heat to the residents of Southern Queens and Rockaway have been dismal and completely unacceptable. As a result of inaction and neglect by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and Con Ed, the health and safety of our most vulnerable neighbors are being jeopardized,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “We have been without power for almost 2 weeks and received no information from any entity explaining a time line or what the process will be for restoration.”
Congressman Meeks added, “There is an abysmal lack of clear and coordinated information to the public. This should not be the case ten days out from the storm. This is a function of the lack of coordination between city government and the utility companies. People in the affected areas need precise answers to when and how services will be restored, what is being asked of them, and what assistance is available to help them to prepare for the restoration of power, heat and water.”
Residents have been patient, however, with each passing day, new processes and different answers are presented by the Mayor and the power companies. None of the plans are coordinated and as a result, residents are growing confused, frustrated and scared.
Prior to restoring power, certified safety inspections of energy equipment are required. Unfortunately, unannounced door to door canvassing is not effective as displaced residents have to be home for the inspections to take place. Late yesterday, customers were notified that it is incumbent upon them to obtain the inspection certifications, adding another expense to residents struggling to recover from the devastation. It is impossible to make progress when agencies refuse to coordinate efforts, added Goldfeder
Representatives of the Mayor’s office as well as LIPA and Con Ed must meet with residents in a coordinated fashion to end the confusion and restore power. Town hall meetings should be planned throughout the community immediately to clearly explain to residents what steps will be taken to restore power and what actions residents are required to make to expedite this process.
“LIPA this is a disgrace, we are unable to get a clear and precise answer by your company on when power will be restored to all of Rockaway. The people of Rockaway deserve much better service and, yes, heads should roll on this one,” said Danny Ruscillo Jr. President of the 100th Precinct Community Council.
“While we understand the magnitude of the damage to the power grid in Rockaway and Broad Channel and recognize the challenges involved restoring power, it is clear that because of the lack of coordination between the City and LIPA it has made a bad situation more much more difficult and has left our residents in the dark. Our residents have suffered enough. The City must provide leadership and clarity so the power can be restored immediately to our homes and buildings,” said Jonathan Gaska CB14 district manager.
“There needs to be accountability and responsibility for the ongoing suffering of these New Yorkers. We are demanding a coordinated effort, regular updates and a concrete plan to get this community back on its feet,” said Goldfeder.