Any pol, Sheepshead Bay? Maybe.

There are a lot of things missing around Sheepshead Bay in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Some homes vanished. Gas has dried up. Most waterfront blocks are without power, heat or hot water, and no one has seen FEMA or Red Cross in the neighborhood.

And, in the hundreds of e-mails, phone calls, text messages, tweets and Facebook comments we’ve been getting, residents have noted time and time again that our local politicians are also AWOL.

Now, I don’t completely agree with that. Councilman Lew Fidler was the first we heard from after Hurricane Sandy, compiling a list of resources for recovery. State Senator Marty Golden has been shooting out about a dozen press releases each day, some seeking volunteers to help in Gerritsen Beach, others passing along resources like GasBuddy.com to help constituents find operating gas stations. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and Councilman Michael Nelson – both booted from their offices by the flood – have done site visits, and Cymbrowitz has sent out resources for FEMA and Con Edison.

But our readers are pretty adamant that it’s not enough, and they’re demanding more.

Few of the locally elected, that we’re aware of, have criticized Con Edison for their lackluster response. They have failed to fight back against the requirement that homeowners – already hard hit financially by the storm – now have to pay out of their own pockets for electricians to provide certification to the city that the home is safe to be energized (the requirement itself is understandable, but the added cost is not).

Here are a few suggestions for our pols regarding Con Ed from reader Richard K.:

  • Con Ed should send representatives to post notices regarding the certification requirement (with the required forms).
  • Con Ed should send their own electricians to homes just as they send meter readers to each home every month.  Many people cannot even afford the additional cost of a certified electricians.
  • Con Ed should set a deadline for certification by their electricians. Homes that have not been certified, due to lack of entry, by the deadline should be cut from power individually. A few people should not be allowed to prevent power restoration to the entire neighborhood.

We’re also hearing a lot of outcry from readers that, once they go through filing the forms, there’s little response from Con Edison, and some have said that Con Edison representatives seem unsure of what to do with it. When these constituents contacted their local officials, the officials chose to defer to Con Edison – not exactly a solution if the problem is Con Edison.

Residents, of course, want gas for their cars, and are fed up with waiting hours in line just for a gas station to run out before they get to refuel. And, yet, when the government was distributing free gas in Brooklyn, they did it at the Brooklyn Armory in Crown Heights. That’s right, Crown Heights, where there was no real damage from the storm; where residents did not need gas to power sump pumps; and where mass transit options opened up long before the did here in Southern Brooklyn.

Oh, and where you’d need to drive to actually fill up, since they were not allowing people to fill up gas cans.

That gas should’ve been distributed in Southern Brooklyn, where people really needed it. And our local elected officials should’ve been shouting from the neighborhood’s splintered roofs to get it.

But that has passed, and no more free gas is available. So, now, where are our local pols demanding that operating gas stations in Zone A and Zone B receive gas before less resource- and transit-starved neighborhoods?

And then there’s FEMA and Red Cross. Senator Marty Golden has done a great job coordinating in Gerritsen Beach. We’ve heard Councilman Michael Nelson and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz have been involved with efforts down at the Shorefront Y in Brighton Beach. But how come there have been no similar efforts in Sheepshead Bay? How come they have not demanded FEMA mobile units to park themselves on Emmons Avenue, and help those in the bungalows and the co-ops and the businesses fill out the proper forms for assistance? How come they have not helped in organizing teams to go door to door, like in Brighton Beach and Gerritsen Beach and Coney Island, where homebound seniors are being brought blankets and food while those in the co-ops of Sheepshead Bay’s Zone A have received nary a visit (or at least that was the case when I knocked on doors earlier this week, letting people know they could get supplies from P.S. 52)?

I don’t agree with the majority of our readers when they say the local pols haven’t done anything. But I do think they need to forcefully and enthusiastically seize the opportunity to help their constituents. And they need to summon up some of that burning indignation you see during the campaigns and set their sites on Con Edison, gas distributors and FEMA.

Sheepshead Bay will not be forgotten. Its residents will make sure of that on many election days to come.

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  • Anonymouse

    Ridiculous article.

    • levp

      Why?!

      • Anonymouse

        Because to assume a elected has to be publicly loud to be doing something is idiotic. SOME of our elected officials who are being loud are press-hounds and not doing much but talking out their a$$es. The ones who are working, talking to the people who have the power to direct the agencies coming in from out of town to areas of less priority are doing so to help people and not get positive press.

        • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

          Idiotic? Thanks. It’s also idiotic to misread such a plainly stated article. I said several times that pols are doing work. However, there are also benefits to getting loud. Do not confuse “getting loud” and using your bully pulpit with “photo ops” or being a press hound.

          • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

            I hit enter too soon. To continue…

            I have no desire to either attend or report on photo ops at the moment. But residents and readers are coming to me saying they want to see their leaders out front on these issues, demanding better services and a quicker recovery. Getting the media’s attention and discussing those issues, and targeting those that are not doing enough, is one such way to do it.

            I understand that our elected are also working the phones and trying to meet constituents needs, and I hope they’re also putting the pressure on those companies and government agencies behind the scenes. But there’s also a point – say, maybe a week and a half AFTER a hurricane when power outages are getting worse, not better – to take it up a notch. That is what was expressed to me by scores of readers, and that is what I’m now expressing to our leaders.

  • NSF

    You’re so right, Ned. Our elected representatives and community leaders have to sit down and strategize a plan for future natural disasters
    that more than adequately covers those elements that seem to have been
    overlooked in the last two weeks.

    It may seem a little outlandish, but in a crisis like this, local, city and state representatives should walk a mile in some of our shoes and stay one or more nights in the communities and home of residents without heat and power.

    Let those who have not been personally affected by the storms see how the other half copes, not just for a photo op or quick walk though to see damage.

    Just as the mayor waited too long to cancel the marathon and delayed in postponing ASP earlier this week, those city officials have to reorganize PRIORITIES when disaster strikes.

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      I will note that several of these pols are in our shoes to varying degrees. Most of them live within the district, and at least one lives on the waterfront. But, just as I’ve been putting in 16 hour days to help my neighbors through my reporting while also dealing with my own problems, I would hope our chosen leaders would be as vocal as possible in demanding the best services and fastest recovery, even if they have their own problems at home.

  • levp

    Richard K. is right. The way it stands right now, I will never have the power back (and heat with it – great for the winter).

    Also funny (*) is that on the same block (East 27th Street) houses that are close to Avenue Z have had power since at least 4 days ago. So what, there was no danger there, but 50 feet south on the same block I need a briefcase of paperwork?
    Or on East 28th Street that has power – literally 30 feet from me – with no paperwork.

    Argh!

    Off to the district party committee to complain – oh, wait, we’re not in Kiev… Off to the attorney’s office to file a lawsuit (**).

    (*) not really funny
    (**) only half-joking

    • Richard K

      I agree and it is quite frustrating to see houses on the same block, that were equally flooded, have had power for days without any issues. Now we have the additional burden of paperwork without any assistance from ConEd. I am not against ensuring our houses are safe, but there needs to be a proper and efficient plan in place to do so. It’s unreasonable to expect every household in a neighborhood to complete a certification within a reasonable time frame and having them impact others. We aren’t even able to reach every house on our block to spread the word.

      Hopefully this article sheds some light on families in Sheepshead Bay that have been unable to move on from the storm like the other 97% of the city.

      • levp

        My degree is in electronics, so I understand electrical safety. I don’t want people electrocuting themselves either, although libertarians would argue that they should have freedom to do so :-)
        Why does ConEd hate America?

        The most frustrating part is that I was very calm and patient all week, waiting for the power to be restored, thinking that ConEd is hard at work 24 hours a day. Now turns out that they were not doing anything at all (which is consistent with complete absence of any workers/trucks in the neighborhood).

    • http://www.facebook.com/clare.kope Clare Kope

      I just passed z/e27th and there are about a dozen Con Ed trucks there . The fresh water truck just left.

      • levp

        Woot! They must be reading the Bites!!

    • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

      Don’t let Beria read your post…. hope you get your power back soon.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Why is this an op-ed? It appears that our beloved editor wrote this article.

    I do believe that Ned has earned the right to speak his mind freely. I also believe that when he does people listen and act.

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      I changed it to editorial. My brain is a little fried. Excuse me.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

        Thanks,Ned.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

        All of us are beyond tired right now.

    • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

      He’s the new E.F. Hutton!

  • Sweeney Verma

    I 100% AGREE! seriously this is the exact problem we are having, and I am sure others are having it too. no power for 10 days and now we find out we have to pay out of pocket for electrical rewiring, which con-ed failed to inform of us until today?

    can we please rally in some way so that individuals who have suffered damage don’t need to pay for an electrician to rewire building, just to get power back? This is ridiculous and there needs to be some sort of aid out there for this situation.

    it’s terrible handling on the part of Con-ed, and yes even our local officials, even if they are doing hard work, we have not seen progress.

  • Cryin4Coney

    I want to give a shout out to Hakeem Jeffries…our newly elected congressman…. right after the sstorm knocked EVERYTHING out, our water, our power, our heat, it was Congressman Jeffreies office that was the most helpful… even calling us back to give us info they didnt know when we reached out to them.

  • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

    Thank you, Councilman. Your efforts and your explanation are certainly appreciated.

  • cryin4Coney

    just want NED to know that when we were sitting in the dark with no power, no water, no heat etc and all we had was a transitor radio and a land line phone… hubby would walk down the dark syairs to find a way to get 20% cell power and the first thing we did was to check for latest info on Sheepshead bites… our lifeline to real info on what was happening!!!! we had to finaly evacuate our home due to the COLD but we are still checking SB every day for accurate info… INFO is sorely lacking and something everyone needs. BRAVO NED and thank you so so very much for being there.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Thanks for taking the time to write at length.

    While we can hope that it will be a long time before we have to use whatever we’ve learned collectively during the past few weeks recent history has shown that our area has become vulnerable to severe weather. Perhaps communities need to form Emergency Preparedness Boards. This could serve as a means of organizing support services before the need arises, and can perform various advocacy functions as well. The boards could consist of elected officials, community leaders, various types of local service providers and those within the community that possess knowledge and abilities that would be helpful when a crisis occurs.

    In the end nothing happens unless people in the community know how to snake their way through the labyrinth of the various entities that need to respond to specific needs. So those who know should be part of a collective framework so energies are utilized efficiently, with less fatigue experienced by individuals within it.

  • Fran M

    VERIZON WHERE ARE YOU? NO PHONE SERVICE IN THE BAY

    • annek

      if you’ve got a iphone, it may need to be restored- i live in marine park and mine crapped out last night and demanded a restart/restore before allowing any calls or texts in or out.

    • ShadowLock

      Can you hear me now? No? Sucks for anyone who is using Verizon :)

  • Abandonedi in SB

    Our elected officials need to be more visable and vocal during this crisis. Con Ed is doing a terrible job & they need to be shamed in public. This neighborhood has a long history of influential pols who would be raising holy hell with Con Ed & city to get the power restored & needed services. Those days are long gone. Yes those pols were publicity seeking blowhards at times but they got things done & drew attention to the issues. Wake up loval pols your constituents need you to get on your soapboxes now more than ever.

  • Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein

    Ned, I’ve been too busy helping my constituents get their power restored to send out press releases, but here goes… Last night, in the middle of the snow storm, I spent over an hour in the cold dark lobby of 2330 Voorhies Avenue to make sure that the volunteers from Shomrim could get access to the building to deliver the hot soup,food,water and fleece jackets that I had arranged to be brought to some of the elderly residents. Earlier in the day, I helped arrange housing for a Nostrand Avenue family of 5 whose house was destroyed by the hurricane.

    Each day, starting before the storm hit, I have personally been on conference calls with ConEd, advocating for restorations, and complaining and yelling about their delays – just ask the others on the call. I have been working hard, pushing ConEd to restore power to our hard hit neighborhoods, and its gotten results. Just ask the folks on Burnett st or the grateful residents of the East 30′s and Marine Park, or the residents of Waterford at 2900 Bragg, where the day after Sandy hit, I was able to get ConEd to restore power, avoiding an evacuation of the elderly residents. While ConEd was there, I climbed the dark muddy steps, flashlight in hand to meet with the staff to ensure all was alright.

    Some people scream and shout, I prefer results.

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      Thank you, Assemblywoman.

  • Natalia

    Having called several politicians including Nelson’s office I do feel they care and are working hard. One even called me last night to give me an update. It is Con Ed that has not show concern or had a reasonable solution to get power back. The politics are pushing Con Ed but it for citizens to get some updates so they know what is going on and that the pols are working. Thank God for SB that has been a life line.

  • natalia

    Please be aware that in Sheepshead Bay on Bedford between voorhies and shore parkway several of us already completed the paperwork. I also was trying to get some referrals from electricians that would do the work for free or cheap. I have a contact if you would like it. Mary from Councilman Nelson’s office has been amazing!!!! I am sure others are working hard as well. In here from Richard there are some good suggestions regarding the need for inspections so that we don’t have to wait months Even with paid electricians the process can take awhile. I have neighbors that are not at home. In addition to your solutions – Richard’s following suggestion should also be implemented. Con Ed should set a deadline for certification by their electricians. Homes that have not been certified, due to lack of entry, by the deadline should be cut from power individually. A few people should not be allowed to prevent power restoration to the entire neighborhood.