Archive for the tag 'utilities'

Source: niznoz/Flickr

Source: niznoz/Flickr

UPDATE (2:06 p.m.): Con Edison just informed us that the restoration time has been bumped up to 3:00 p.m.

Power went out due to “equipment failure” in the Sheepshead Bay area, according to the spokesperson, and they’re still investigating.

It’s also not just Gerritsen Beach – it looks like the outage spans that entire neighborhood, as well as a chunk of Sheepshead Bay / Plumb Beach. The borders they’ve given are Avenue U to the north, “Plumb Beach Avenue” to the south, Gerritsen Avenue to the east and Coyle Street to the west. (We’re looking for clarification on “Plumb Beach Avenue,” as there’s no such street in the area that we know of.)

Original post:

Residents of Gerritsen Beach are in the dark after power cut out, according to Con Edison.

A spokesperson for the company said 924 clients are without power after it went out at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Crews are on the scene working to restore it, and service is expected to resume by 5:00 p.m.

The spokesperson said the cause and geographical boundaries of the outage had not yet been determined. We will update this post when we hear back.

If you live in the area and are without power (yet somehow have access to this website), let us know the location in the comments.

Seacoast Towers (Source: Google Maps)

Seacoast Towers (Source: Google Maps)

An energy service company bowed before the wrath of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz after a billing snafu caused approximately 45 residents of Brighton Beach’s Seacoast Towers, where Cymbrowitz lives, to be enrolled without their consent.

Great Eastern Energy, which has offices on Sheepshead Bay Road, distributed fliers about the availability of the service at the building in mid-February, according to the local pol. But when some residents of Seacoast Towers (1311 Brightwater Avenue and 35 Seacoast Terrace) contacted the company solely to learn more, they received postcards informing them they had been enrolled despite never having signed a contract.

“The language of the flier was not ambiguous and did not in any way suggest that the flier was a binding contract for service,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “People were hoodwinked, plain and simple.”

Cymbrowitz says he contacted the company on behalf of residents, but the president, Allan Brenner, refused to back off. Even though Brenner admitted the flier was unclear, he said they would continue to provide service to those residents, according to Cymbrowitz.

The company’s founder, Fima Podvisoky, agreed to cancel the contracts at the pol’s behest.

Action did not come swiftly enough for Cymbrowitz. He filed a formal complaint with the New York Public Service Commission, saying that the company’s practices were “deceptive and predatory.”

A third company official then weighed in last week, telling the assemblyman that all affected residents would be contacted and offered a fixed rate. If the company didn’t hear back from the residents, they would be returned to their regular service.

That official, CEO Matt Lanfear, made the offer by Facebook, including giving an apology for the “clerical error.”

“I’m genuinely sorry that you’ve had this experience with our service. It is not, and could not be less indicative of our business practices and guiding principles,” Lanfear wrote. He noted that he has contacted the Public Service Commission to inform them about the “operational oversight,” and that they’re working with the commission to rectify it.  “Some of the residents who received the flyer were enrolled prior to receiving a contract. This was a clerical error and was not meant to be deceptive in any way,” Lanfear wrote in the lengthy post.

The CEO also noted that the company had attempted to respond to Cymbrowitz directly, but to no avail.

To clarify, we’ve also made direct contact with you, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, on several occasions by phone and email. After inviting you to our offices but receiving no response, I’ve decided to come to you—in fact, I’ve contacted your office to schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience. I’m hopeful we’ll get to speak face-to-face upon your return from Albany.

That post on Cymbrowitz’s Facebook page has no response from the local pol, who has been spending most of each week this month in Albany for the legislative session.

The assemblyman definitely saw the response, though; a press release was issued the next day highlighting the apology and expressing his desire to move on.

“In the end, the object is to save people money. If this company can do that, we’re happy to work with them,” he said in the release. “My goal was never to embarrass Great Eastern Energy but to protect constituents, many of them elderly and non-English speaking, who found themselves in a situation they didn’t ask for and couldn’t resolve. We’ve accomplished that goal and now we can move on.”

No, this is not from today.

The following is an unaltered press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

The thought of paying home heating costs this winter is enough to send a chill through many low-income seniors and families in Brooklyn.

Fortunately, help is on the way thanks to Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) and the Heartshare Neighborhood Heating Fund (NHF).

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ office at 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road is once again an official NHF application receiving site. Applications are available at the office now and his staff will assist constituents in his district in completing them. NHF will begin accepting completed applications on Monday, December 16.

Eligibility is based on household size and gross monthly income. To see if you are eligible and for more information, call Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ office at (718) 743-4078.

The Neighborhood Heating Fund is run under the auspices of Heartshare Human Services of New York, which receives both grants and private donations. National Grid is a major sponsor of the program.

The NHF program runs until funds are depleted, so constituents are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

“The winter is a particularly difficult time for low-income residents who must struggle to cover their basic needs,” said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz. “I am pleased that the Neighborhood Heating Fund is available to lend a much-needed helping hand.”

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ office is open Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and until 5 p.m. on Fridays.

construction

A long-standing sidewalk obstacle in front of the derelict Maimonides clinic at 3121 Ocean Avenue is finally being fixed, with contractors on the scene yesterday.

The site was previously a pit covered by a foot-tall concrete slab and surrounded by barricades.

Here’s what it looked like when we passed by in October:

construction2

It was covered in trash and debris, and was long on my to-do list for griping here on this site. It bothered me because it not only attracted garbage and was a fairly horrendous eyesore, but also because it was an obstacle that took up a huge portion of sidewalk. Next door to the site is the Bainbridge Center, an adult daycare facility. So it’s fair to assume the area is pretty highly trafficked by seniors and the disabled.

A contractor on the scene told us it was a telephone utility manhole damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Looking into the pit while they worked, it was deep and empty. While the contractor blamed Sandy, I recall this being a problem spot long before the storm, with the sidewalk broken and raised up. I can’t remember if they began the work before the storm, but I believe they did.

It also bothered me because it was supposed to be fixed nearly a year ago. A sign on the site over the summer indicated it was a ConEd job, not a telephone utility, and work was supposed to be done by February:

construction3

That never happened. Some time in the fall this sign was spray painted so that the construction information could not be read. Covering tracks much? Maybe.

Hopefully they finish the work quickly and responsibly. It’ll be nice for neighbors to have their sidewalk back, instead of covered in construction and trash.

A map of the approximate outage area, where 7,724 households were affected. Those shaded red were restored within 20 minutes, while 201 customers in the purple-shaded area were without power until 9 a.m.

A map of the approximate outage area, where 7,724 households were affected. Those shaded red were restored within 20 minutes, while 201 customers in the purple-shaded area were without power until 9 a.m.

As many as 7,724 Con Edison customers along a broad swath of Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend and Manhattan Beach were left without power this morning after an electrical line snapped.

The first reports of power outages hit the utility company at 7:16 a.m., a Con Edison representative told Sheepshead Bites. The company was able to respond quickly, bringing power back online for 7,523 customers within 20 minutes. But another 201 customers, largely in Manhattan Beach, remained without power until 9 a.m.

The outage affected thousands of households between Avenue R and Oriental Boulevard, and between West 7th Street and Knapp Street. While most saw service restored quickly, Plumb Beach and Manhattan Beach residents from Voorhies Avenue to Oriental Boulevard, and from Pembroke Street to Brighton 11th Street saw the longest delays in restoring electricity.

Con Edison said a downed power line caused the outage, but has not yet said where the power line was, or what caused it to fail.

If you know the location of the downed power line, please share with us in the comments.

UPDATE (11:51 a.m.): Con Edison just informed us that the downed power line was on East 19th Street, just north of Voorhies Avenue. They still could not say what caused it to go down.

Source: niznoz/Flickr

Source: niznoz/Flickr

by Jennifer Szulman

It has been more than a year since Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the East Coast, yet Brighton Beach leaders say Con Edison and local landlords have not yet fully recovered – and it could cost residents a small fortune due to ongoing billing issues.

A series of billing and infrastructural snafus, some on behalf of the utility company, and others due to landlords’ sluggishness with repairs, will lead to large future bills for many customers. That has local business and tenant advocates concerned.

Makhnin

Yelena Makhnin, the executive director of the Brighton Beach Business Improvement District, said that Brighton Beach residents are concerned about their Con Edison bills since the storm damaged their electricity meters. Some residents have received bills as low as $20 per month when they’re used to seeing $80; others have received estimated bills or no bills whatsoever.

That means the company has not been billing for actual usage, and plans to make up the shortfall on future bills.

According to Con Edison’s Public Affairs Manager Sidney Alvarez, a future bill will consist of the months that customers haven’t been charged. It will be estimated on a case by case basis and calculated from each resident’s typical use of electricity prior to Superstorm Sandy. Alvarez suggested that residents stay in close contact with Con Edison for questions about bill adjustments, accommodations or payment plans.

Most of the billing problems stem from damaged electrical meter systems in large buildings, which some landlords haven’t remedied. When Con Edison finds that a meter has not been properly repaired, they may suspend billing.

“Building owners are responsible for making repairs, upgrades and modifications,” Alvarez said. “Once work is completed Con Edison will make the necessary inspections to service the area and issue the required orders.”

In large buildings, though, building owners aren’t the ones that need to worry about electrical bills, since those are handled directly by the residents. So there’s little incentive to make repairs, and some landlords are dragging their feet due to the high costs, Makhnin said.

“The landlords have to pay for it. They are not talking about $2,000 or $3,000, but a much greater amount,” Makhnin said. “Take into consideration the amount of money already spent [to repair boilers, etc]; they might see changing meters as an expense they cannot afford.”

Residents, meanwhile, are left at the utility company’s mercy.

Singer (Photo by Erica Sherman)

Singer (Photo by Erica Sherman)

When Brighton Neighborhood Association founder and local resident Pat Singer started receiving estimated bills from Con Edison shortly after Superstorm Sandy, she thought it was going to be a temporary way to cope with the aftermath of the storm. In April, Singer paid an estimated bill of roughly $17, as opposed to her typical charge of $80 to $150, depending on the season. Singer later received a letter from Con Edison saying that while they would still provide electricity to the complex, they were not going to bill her anymore until the meters in her 96-unit building are replaced.

The meters in her building are due to come soon, according to Singer, but she fears the “estimated” expense of her future bills.

“They’re going to have to pull the figure out of a hat if you don’t have a meter,” Singer said. “Of course they’re going to pull the figure out on their side, not on our side. They should waive some of these fees; it shouldn’t be a blow like this with one big giant bill. They shouldn’t have stopped billing. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Both Singer and Makhnin agree that this is a serious issue that needs to go beyond a “he said, she said” debate. Both women feel the government needs to intervene and Sandy relief money should be used to help the residents pay for the mounting costs.

“I’m not saying that the city, federal government or FEMA has to pay for changing meters, but there should be a way to give landlords some kind of incentive to help them a little bit,” Makhnin said. “I believe the city has to step in – not by issuing fines but trying to find a solution to help both sides. People should not have to choose, especially elderly on a fixed income, between paying Con Edison bills and buying food.”

Remember when we ate MREs because we had to? Ugh.

Yesterday we posted part one of a list of notable coverage of the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Most were published over the weekend or last week. Here’s part two, with the latest Sandy-related coverage from around the media that we think is worth your time:

Photo by Alen Agaronov, taken on Manhattan Beach following Hurricane Sandy.

It’s hard for us to step away and do our own one-year retrospective on Superstorm Sandy and the recovery. We’ve been writing about it – dealing with it – every day. For us, October 29, 2013, the anniversary of the storm, will be a day where we unite with our neighbors to quietly reflect on all that we’ve been through, before returning to the work of writing about, and participating in, rebuilding our community bigger, better and stronger.

So rather than dig in and do another piece on where we are, what has been done, and what still needs to be done, we’re pulling together reports from around the city to create what we think is a fairly comprehensive picture of the progress.

The overall message is this: we’ve come a long way to recovery, but we’ve got quite a bit farther to go.

Here’s a list of links about the one-year anniversary of Sandy so far, and we expect to post another list tomorrow:

Know of a good Superstorm Sandy retrospective? Share the link in the comments.

Photo by Yuriy Semenov

New York City officials are claiming they need additional revenue to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure, and they’re looking to collect on yet another water rate hike.

That’s on top of a 5.6 percent hike in water rates this summer, and a seven percent increase the year before. In fact, if I’m reading this chart correctly, water rates have gone up more than 165 percent since Bloomberg took office in 2002, with increases every single year, and double digit jumps from 2008 to 2011.

But, hey, at least they’re considering a “smaller” increase for next year.

“We want the rate increase that goes into effect next July to be smaller than before,” Steve Lawitts, the chief financial officer of the Department of Environmental Protection, told the Daily News.

Public Advocate and mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio has previously depicted the increases as a “backdoor tax,” a device the city is using to not just cover costs, but to pay bills elsewhere in the budget. That has allowed Mayor Michael Bloomberg to claim he hasn’t raised taxes, when in fact city residents are still paying hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more a year – and your City Council rep doesn’t even get a vote on it.

The New York City Water Board usually holds rate increase meetings in the spring. Stay tuned.

Source: niznoz/Flickr

Source: niznoz/Flickr

We received this from Micah Rome, an energy efficiency consultant with Con Edison’s Small Business Team, who has been doing outreach in Sheepshead Bay to save our business owners some cash. Here’s what he had to say:

ConEdison’s Small Business Energy Program offers FREE energy efficiency assessments that can help small businesses throughout New York City save money on their ConEdison electricity bills and help protect the environment.  The way the program works is that each qualifying ConEdison account is eligible for a free energy efficiency assessment to determine measures that can be taken to reduce electricity usage.  Any efficiency measures identified in the assessment are then eligible for up to a 70% subsidy for materials and installation from ConEdison.  You can find more information about the program at http://www.coned.com/energyefficiency/businessdirect.asp.

One Sheepshead Bay business that took advantage of the ConEdison’s program was Monica’s Bridal.  The store replaced all of there standard lighting with energy efficienct LED lighting last year.  Since then the store owner has reported that the electricity bill has dropped from $5,000 to $1,400 per month.

Small business owners should also be aware that as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 the production of T12 fluorescent lamps has been discontinued as of July 14, 2012.  More information here: http://www.pacificpower.net/bus/se/tr/flsc.html.  T12 lamps are the most common type of fluorescent lamps and ConEdison’s Small Business Energy Program can help you upgrade your lighting.  If you have T12 lamps or if you are not sure, call 646-770-7623 for your free small business energy efficiency assessment.

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