Victims of power surge get payback from ConEdison

By Phil Corso

Robert Coddington, of Douglas Manor, lost a microwave, a television and a surge protector in the pre-Thanksgiving electrical surge in November.

More than three months later, however, he has nothing but good things to say about Con Edison.

After losing about $460 worth of electronics in the surge, Coddington said ConEd agreed to reimburse him in full.

“It means they accepted responsibility for the surge,” Coddington said. “It’s all good news. I have to give them credit.”

Coddington was lucky compared to some of his neighbors. He said other residents in Douglaston lost entire computer systems, among other items, some of which resulted in more than $2,000 in damages. From what he’s heard, not one resident has been denied a reimbursement.

ConEd spokesman Bob McGee said the utility was handling reimbursements on a case-by-case basis as long as losses could be linked to the surge.

“By and large, if you spoke with the community, I would imagine they’d show a lot of satisfaction with the way we are handling it,” McGee said. “We’re just trying to do the right thing.”

But the road to full reimbursements was not an easy one, according to Douglas Manor Association Secretary Jamie Sutherland. After the Nov. 23 power surge, which ConEd said was caused by a problem with an electrical cable, Sutherland went to work in mobilizing her community.

“This is a small town and word spreads quickly that there were a lot of damages,” Sutherland said. “Once people started calling the DMA office, we jumped on it.”

Sutherland said that as more reports of losses trickled in, the association compiled lists of close to 65 affected residents and even went as far as plotting red dots on a map of the area to provide to ConEd. Their organized approach, along with some help from Community Board 11, resulted in full cooperation from the utility company.

“At first, they said they weren’t responsible for the reimbursement,” Sutherland said. “They don’t normally do this. They wanted to do the right thing for our community.”

According to Coddington, the full reimbursement of losses would not have been possible without Sutherland’s help. He said she was the person most responsible for the check he will receive from ConEd.

“Jamie got ConEd on the phone, sent out the notices and did it all. If you had a problem, you let her know,” Coddington said. “Without her, I wouldn’t have gotten any money at all, and I’m grateful for her help.”

The checks issued by ConEd have been more than fair, Sutherland said, with some of the largest sums above $2,500.

“We appreciate what they’ve done. It’s fairly substantial,” she said.

Sutherland said she helped coordinate meetings between the DMA, Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld and ConEd Public Affairs Director Carol Conslato, who did not return phone calls for this story. Conslato’s work, however, was well regarded by Sutherland and the DMA.

“It was a great win-win,” Sutherland said. “We really thank Carol for stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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