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Queens senator pushes Con Edison to ensure reliability for hurricane season

State Senator Joseph Addabbo speaks at the wreath-laying ceremony in Forest Hills. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Queens Senator Joseph Addabbo held a meeting with Con Edison officials in June to discuss power outages in his district and the preparations necessary for the hurricane season, which lasts through November. 

Addabbo said what prompted the meeting was the frequency and duration of outages, particularly in Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Middle Village.

According to Con Edison’s records, Howard Beach suffered outages in late April that left 600 customers without power. Again in early May, 200 customers in Howard Beach lost power. Additionally, Ozone Park had an outage on May 9 that affected 1,400 customers, while Middle Village has seen 19 outages since 2012 that interrupted service for nearly 9,000 customers. 

Con Edison serves approximately 3.5 million customers in the five boroughs and Westchester.

“I lived in Ozone Park my whole life, and I noticed, too, that the frequency and duration of these outages were occurring even through a mild wind or rainstorm,” Addabbo said. “My constituents should not have to worry that their power will go out every time there is a storm. Our electrical grid should be able to handle these storms and provide power to customers when they need it the most.”

Jamie McShane, the director of media relations at Con Edison, said that they had invested $1.5 billion in preparation for this summer and the hurricane season. 

The funds went toward new cables, transformers, network protectors and other equipment. At the end of every summer, Con Edison starts preparing for the next summer. 

“We do [these investments] every year and prepare all year long,” McShane said. 

Con Edison has also invested in research to estimate the cost and benefits of putting lines underground in vulnerable areas. This initiative, called the “undergrounding pilot program,” looks into Middle Village, Staten Island and Westchester County. 

“These projects cover approximately 200 customers,” McShane said. “We’re conducting this pilot in recognition of the fact that climate change is real and severe storms are becoming more frequent and more destructive for our customers.”

The estimated cost for placing lines underground is $4 million in Middle Village alone. 

McShane reassured customers that Con Edison is extremely reliable and they are constantly updating and revitalizing their systems. 

“We are eight times more reliable than other utilities around the country,” McShane said. “No system is bulletproof. When outages occur, our crews respond efficiently.”

In a recent New York Times article about Con Edisons climate change preparation analysis in partnership with Columbia University, cited experts who called their response the “gold standard.” 

What the report found is that New York City could soon see longer heatwaves than ever before. This would mean Con Edison’s transformers and cables wouldn’t be able to cool down overnight as they need to. As a result, according to the Times article, the company estimates their cooling equipment will need to be 40 percent larger by 2040.

Addabbo has said that though he’s not entirely happy with Con Edison’s preparations, he appreciates their efforts and will monitor the outages and keep up with their work. 

“We’ll see. We’re going into the storm season as we approach the fall, and they have to be prepared,” Addabbo said. “I’m pleased that they’re addressing the issue, and we’ll see how we fare in the next mild to a severe rainstorm.”

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