‘A monopoly on power’: Con Ed service just out of reach for Forest Hills housing project

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

In building a new affordable housing project in Forest Hills, Phipps Houses is looking to Con Edison to provide the infrastructure to power for their lives of their future tenants.

But Con Edison is telling the developers to dig up to 300 yards across a former NYCHA complex in order to connect to the nearest power source on the south side of 62nd Drive, according to Phipps and elected officials who blasted the utilities provider on Thursday.

Adam Weinstein, the president of Phipps Houses, said they are looking build 442-units of affordable housing in three separate buildings just south of Horace Harding Expressway.

Between 62nd Drive and Forest Hills Co-op 108-03 62nd Dr., Phipps would need to dig a trench to another property in order to make the development a reality and have little cooperation from the ConEdison in establishing better point-of-Access.

“It is a work of alchemy – it’s a small miracle that we’re here building affordable housing in a rapidly unaffordable neighborhood in New York,” Weinstein said. “And yet, the one thing you should be able to count on, a utility – a monopoly on power is getting in the way… ConEd’s logic would be to have us connect to a box that is two or three blocks away.”

Weinstein said they filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission, a form of administrative litigation, to see that the new point-of-access and Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal issued a letter in April to ConEdison which was not responded to.

Weinstein argued that although they manage the co-op, the property does not belong to them and that they do not have a right trench through what is currently green, community space.

“ConEd gets paid a lot of money to provide that power,” Weinstein said. “If you consider their capital investment in infrastructure, which btw can serve other developments as well not just ours – but just taking the revenue from our development pays them more than just their 9 percent return on capital. So in fact, this development is subsidizing other rate payers. It pays about a 15 percent return on capital.”

Apart from the letter, Rosenthal said there have been email exchanges with Con Edison but no progress.

“Con Edison believes that a brand new 442-unit affordable housing development does not constitute a new point-of-access to accommodate three buildings. Rather they are demanding Phipps Housing pay for the power line,” Rosenthal said. “Our city is in dire need of affordable housing and we don’t want Con Edison to be the reason that stops this.”

Here is a pricing breakdown for the development:

Courtesy of Phipps Houses

Phipps plans to make all the 442 units available to low income tenants, but says half those will be available to tenants who meet less than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) as well as a small formerly homeless component.

City-wide AMI for New York City for three person is about $96,100 which went up from about $84,000 the year before.

“I get emails three or four times a day from Con Ed, but we sent them a letter in April and they haven’t responded,” state Senator Toby Stavisky said. “ConEdison has to understand that there are people involved in addition to properties. They have to make it easier for people to cope with the problems of living in New York City.”

ConEdison did return a request for comment before press time.

As of Tuesday, the utilities company was working to restore power to much Kew Gardens after residents of 118th Street between Curzon Road and Metropolitan Avenue. Residents reported not have A/C, or running water for over 36 hours.