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Flashlight march to mark blackout

Western Queens residents plan to break out their flashlights and battery-powered camping lamps this summer even if their electricity is running.
On Tuesday, July 17, residents and members of the Power for the People Campaign (PFP), carrying the hand-held lights will march from Sunnyside to Woodside in commemoration of last year’s 10-day blackout.
“It’s been a year since the outage, and it’s been some year for us because we’ve been part of the PSC [Public Service Commission] hearing … In all this time, Con Ed hasn’t really owned up to its faults,” said one of the group’s founders, Molly Charboneau. The PFP was launched on July 22, 2006 by residents and business owners in response to the blackout. “Plus they [Con Ed] are now requesting the highest rate hike in recent history.”
In May, the power giant asked state regulators to up rates for its residential customers by 17 percent and by 10.7 percent for businesses. The company explained in a release that the additional money would be used to pay for short-term improvements and “challenges of the future.” In addition, Con Ed has spent $1.4 billion in improvements throughout the five boroughs and Westchester since last year’s blackout.
Nevertheless, Charboneau and other western Queens residents believe that the power giant should spend more of its own money on upgrades.
During the march, organizers plan to pass around a petition, calling on Con Edison to give residents more reimbursements for last year’s outage, not impose a proposed 17 percent rate hike, and to make more upgrades to Queens networks.
In particular, the petition calls for workers and residents to be reimbursed for lost wages and expenses, for free power for the length of the blackout and no charge for “brownout” power, an alert system to notify community members of outages, and a community-civilian review of Con Ed’s emergency response.
PFP also hopes to push the utility company to pay for an independent study, quantifying the damages and losses from last year’s outage. Charboneau, a 57-year-old Sunnyside resident who lost power for the duration of the 10-day blackout and relied on electricity from a generator for three weeks, said that climbing up the stairs last year was the most difficult aspect of the outage.
The march, which will begin at 7 p.m. at the Thomas P. Noonan Playground at Greenpoint Avenue and 43rd Street, will end at the triangle where Woodside Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue intersect - nearby to the 61st Street station of the No. 7 subway line.
For more information, call 718-512-5442, visit their website www.powerforthepeople.info or email powerforthepeople2006@hotmail.com.

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