Community miffed with Con Ed blackout settlement

Is a $100 credit rebate enough to mend the wounds of a ten-day blackout in Astoria? Kevin Mullarkey, a member of Community Board 1 in Astoria, and a resident affected by the blackout two years ago said not a chance.
“It’s ludicrous to think that $100 will bring back the time wasted and the aggravation that we as a community went through,” Mullarkey said.
Back in July 2006, a 10-day blackout swept across western Queens; subsequently ruining many businesses and causing havoc throughout neighborhoods.
Nearly two years later, The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) recently approved a settlement that would require Con Ed to pay roughly $63 million. A little bit more than a quarter of the settlement, $17 million, would be distributed to the nearly 170,000 residents and business owners that were hit by the blackout.
The settlement is equivalent to a bill credit of $100 for each residential customer, $200 for each small non-residential customer and $350 for each large non-residential customer. These bill credits will be applied in full to customers’ accounts within 60 days of the Commission’s decision, but that is not enough to placate some customers.
“Because of the blackout, my sub-pump went out, my carpet was destroyed and I lost a ton of money,” said Mullarkey. “They [Con Ed] refused to give me extra money to fix some of these problems,” he added.
Mullarkey, who is also a disabled senior, said that the elderly and the disabled were hit the hardest during this blackout. “I feel like seniors had nobody to turn to when the blackout happened,” he said.
However, it was not just the residents and business owners dissatisfied with the settlement.
“It’s a little bit better than nothing, but not much,” said City Councilmember Eric Gioia. “The people of Queens suffered for nine days without power because of Con Edison’s incompetence.
Meanwhile, the settlement came as more of a slap in the face to some residents in light of the $800,000 raise that Con Ed’s CEO Kevin Burke received.
“How a man can receive a raise of nearly a million dollars is beyond my comprehension,” Mullarkey said. “If I was in his position, I would say, ‘take my bonus and give it back to the people in the community who had to suffer because of my company.’ ”
In a written statement about this situation, Con Ed officials said that they were pleased with the recent settlement, and they still acknowledged that their performance during the blackout did not meet with the high standards that their company is based on.
The remainder of the settlement money will be distributed to a community-benefit fund, which will be used for tree planting and other environmental initiatives or greening projects designed to improve the environment in the neighborhoods directly affected by the 2006 power outage.
Queens Assemblymember Michael Gianaris said that the PSC looks the other way while Con Ed’s actions continue to hurt the city.
“Until Con Edison is forced to make dramatic reforms, we can expect more of the same - unreliable service and ever-increasing rates. What a shame,” he said.
For individuals, the $100 credit does not seem like it is enough for these long-time customers.
“How can we justify a minimal credit when Con Edison will just turn around and increase my monthly bill?” Mullarkey said.

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