Following the restoration of power after Hurricane Sandy and the ensuing nor’easter, members of the New Hyde Park Village Board laid into the Long Island Power Authority, criticizing the utility for its actions both during and after the storm and for literally keeping villages in the dark for two-weeks.
During a meeting on November 8 at the village hall, deputy mayor Robert Lofaro chided LIPA for not providing any official information to the village as to the restoration schedule, citing the LIPA website that the majority of residents would have their power restored by the weekend of November 10-11.
“Each evening Dan (Petruccio) and I drove the entire, every street in the Village of New Hyde Park, including dead-ends and looked to reassess to see where things were,” Lofaro said. “We felt that we survived the storm and there was only some property damage that needed to be resolved.”
“The first two days of the storm, people didn’t see LIPA because they weren’t out and what they were doing when they were out was simply assessing damage,” Mayor Petruccio said. “So they didn’t hit the ground running and start repairing, they did a survey and assessment. We had already done the assessment. We handed them a spreadsheet. We would have handed it to them if we could’ve found them, but we had a spreadsheet with every location and the circumstances. We did that work for them; all they had to do was provide manpower and expertise.”
LIPA crews had installed new poles and repaired their power lines, but the old poles remain and now Verizon and Cablevision are working on moving their equipment from the old pole to the new poles.
“We’re learning a lot about electricity,” Lofaro said, “we’re still learning a lot more.”
The deputy mayor noted that if residents have power generators that were operating, the power being put into their homes could have a “back feed” of electricity into the wires, enough to injure or even kill a person.
“We want to urge our residents, because their house is dark and because they think the line is dead, that may not be the case if a neighbor is actually using a generator.”
Lofaro said that there were “no locations that would present an obstacle” for LIPA, National Grid, the water authority, Cablevision or Verizon from completing their repair work and restoration.
The seven most damaged utility services in the village were:
- the 10-block of North Tenth Street, blocking access to a commercial building
- the 500 and 600-blocks of Ingraham Lane, which is blocking the roadway
- the 600-block of Fifth Avenue, blocking the roadway
- the 300-block of South Eighth Street, blocking the roadway
- 500-block of South Ninth Street, blocking the roadway
- 600-block of South Ninth Street, blocking the roadway
- the 300-block of South Tenth Street, blocking the roadway
“We had sent an e-mail to any and every individual we knew that was involved in this emergency management to let them know of those seven locations,” Lofaro said, “because the LIPA substations serving these locations could be in Floral Park, Stewart Manor, Herricks, or Lake Success. We can only surmise that these locations are having some impact on the inability of LIPA to restore power to homes in those areas.”
On a positive note, the village did learn where the lines of delineations are for the substations.
“I never had a clue of what ran where, but now I do,” Gannon said.
In most cases, New Hyde Park is at the end of each of the substations’ grids.
South Ninth Street is the last street powered from the substation on Plainfield Avenue in Floral Park that feeds the village while the village hall is the last building that receives power from the Stewart Manor substation.
“They can’t fix the outer areas first, they have to start at the substation and work their way out,” Lofaro said. “So, talk about a forgotten village, we are in fact, the end of the substation coverage area in all four locations.”
Added Mayor Petruccio: “Floral Park feels like it’s gone back to the dark ages, it’s hard to say this, they may be in worse shape than we are; they are in worse shape than we are. There isn’t a community right now that doesn’t feel forgotten from the south shore to the north shore.”
Shawn Fitzpatrick, a Brooklyn Avenue resident, asked when he might get power restored while Lynn-Marie Fitzpatrick found it “reprehensible and negligible” that there was no liaison for LIPA for local governments.
“We can’t call them, we have no phone numbers that they answer, they will give us no detailed or specific information about when the homes that are still without power will be powered up,” trustee Donald Barbieri said.
LIPA supplied municipal governments with a phone number where officials could contact LIPA officials.
“I’ll give you the phone number and see if there’s ever anybody that answers that phone,” Barbieri said. “The answer is never.”
Each day the village receives a number to listen in on a LIPA conference call.
“We also had a unique experience,” Petruccio said. “A conference call with the President and the Governor. We were muted, thankfully, and they spoke to each other and then Mangano, Bellone, Suffolk and then Quinn from New York City each got to ask a question. Well, it was a love-fest. It was ‘you’re doing a great job, you’re a great friend of the State of New York and back and forth wasting our time.”
LIPA reportedly is not treating its contractors, some of whom have come hundreds of miles to assist, any better.
“The treatment of these crews is absolutely reprehensible,” Petruccio said. “They didn’t have housing for them, they didn’t provide food for them, many of those men slept in their trucks, they’ve driven from Florida and Ohio and Indiana, so they’re dropping the ball at all levels.”
Superintendent of public works Tom Gannon drove to a nearby substation and “pleaded” to get a crew.
“There’s really no rhyme or reason to it,” Gannon said of how LIPA delineates where crews go to cleanup.
For those on Belmont Ave., Gannon spoke with a person he knew at the Herricks substation who helped get two trees out of the way that helped restored power to homes on the street.
“That was not an official LIPA reaction, that was because we know somebody at that substation and we begged him to please do us a favor and come,” Lofaro said. “That’s the kind of beg, borrowing and stealing that we’ve been doing and Tom has been begging each day to try to get somebody.”
After calling contacts Lofaro and Gannon obtained 3 crews to work in the village on Sunday.
“They need a lineman crew, a tree crew and a tree removal crew to get the job done,” Gannon said. “Which would have come into 18 vehicles because you have the guys that will take the tree all the way down, you have the guys that will trim around to get the wires back in place but not remove the tree and then you have the linemen who’ll have to kill the line in order to reinstall it and then charge them back up.”
The village supplemented what manpower they received with its own crews who asked the utility crews what needed to be done in order to complete as much work as possible.
Officials also faced a challenge with at situation at 555 and 632 Ingraham Lane at Whittier Avenue, where most of the Whittier area was out.
“We had a tree on a house and we were begging and pleading with LIPA to come help us because if we removed the tree we would have let slack on the wire and letting the slack on the wire would have dropped the telephone pole on a house,” Lofaro said. “We needed LIPA to be there to disconnect the wiring and they wound up not coming and they still have not come and we were able to work with some other individuals as well working up a rigging so that we could remove the tree, let the slack on the wire go and not have this telephone pole fall on this particular house.”
Mentioning that several of his coworkers at Chaminade, some of them village residents, have had to send their young and newborn children to upstate and out of state because of the lack of heat in the house, Mayor Petruccio said that “this type of activity is criminal activity.”
Added Barbieri: “we have all watched the news and know the horrid situation that has evolved all around us and how many fellow residents of ours in New York and New Jersey are in such a horrible, desperate place and I guess we all want to pray for them and hope that we can find a way to most expeditiously help these people, giving them warmth and food and a place where they’d be comfortable as we repair the damage.”