Con Edison starts $4 million underground pilot program in Middle Village, hears feedback from local community board

Juniper Valley Road and 77th Street in Middle Village. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

Representatives from Con Edison presented their pilot program that will transfer overhead lines underground in Middle Village to Community Board 5 on Tuesday, Sept. 14. 

The initiative, called the Juniper Valley Undergrounding Pilot Program, was proposed after the area was determined to be more vulnerable because of its high tree density. The construction focuses on the segment extending on Juniper Valley Road and 77th Street.

Jamie McShane, the director of media relations at Con Edison, said that this program is being conducted to try and make their service more reliable as storms become more severe.

“Climate change is real and severe storms are becoming more frequent and more destructive for our customers,” McShane said. 

The segment being moved underground services 495 customers, according to Con Edison representatives. A total of 19 outages were reported since 2012 on that segment, with over 8,000 customers interrupted.  

The construction has already started on this approximately $4 million program. Con Edison spoke with the board to receive feedback from the community and address concerns. 

“We are focused on Con Ed reliability,” said Richard David from the Queens Con Edison affairs office. “We’re very excited about this project. We’re inviting our neighbors here to work with Con Ed to achieve success here.”

One board member, Kathy Masi, said she is concerned about how the underground segment will withstand salt melting after winter storms. 

Robert Ahad, an engineer with Con Edison, responded saying salt is detrimental to the system, but they have protective equipment in place to avoid system failures. 

“This new cable has a rubber insulation around it. It’s a little more resistant to weather and underground events,” Ahad said. “It would add another layer of protection.”

McShane said that the company invested $1.5 billion in preparation for this summer and the hurricane season in New York. 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.

Con Edison’s climate change preparation analysis in partnership with Columbia University, has been called the “gold standard” by experts, according to a New York Times article. 

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.

Construction for the Juniper Valley Undergrounding Pilot Program will take place Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Any residents with questions can contact 800-75-CONED.