A string of summer blackouts on Bay 46th Street could have killed a lung-damaged woman — so her son turned their backyard into a miniature power plant.
Frequent — and unexplained — power outages encouraged Todd Dobrin to purchase a $500, 5,500-watt generator in June so that his sick mother’s oxygen machine would never stop running.
With a yank on a cord, Dobrin, an electrician, can rev up the noisy generator, which uses about 2-1/2 gallons of precious gasoline to power an oxygen machine, an air conditioner, several lights and a refrigerator for about 12 hours.
“It’s not a luxury, it’s for emergencies,” Dobrin said, quickly mentioning the days-long power outages two summers ago in Queens. “I’ve got a mom who needs oxygen. I’m not taking any chances.”
Dobrin has gone public at community meetings to shame Con Edison into fixing the problem on his and neighboring blocks.
The power giant admits that there have been a number of surges and blackouts in Bensonhurst, but is “working to correct the problem,” said spokesman Bob McGee.
Until then, Dobrin will continue to keep one finger on his mom’s pulse and another on his generator switch.
“In a city where you pay this much to live, electricity is the kind of thing you have to be able to rely on,” Dobrin said. “If they are aware of the problem, why hasn’t it been fixed yet?”
The generator is a loud — and unsightly — addition to his well-kept backyard, but it’s necessary according to his mother Ellen, who has battled emphysema since 1997.
“Without the oxygen, I could die” in hours, she said.
There were at least three power outages in Bensonhurst this summer — some lasting as long as two hours, according to Dobrin. Short power surges that reset electric clocks happen nearly weekly.
“There are frequent blackouts in the neighborhood,” said Marion Cleaver, chair of Community Board 13, who now uses a wind-up alarm clock as a back-up because of the regular outages.
“The blackouts don’t get publicized because they aren’t long enough to cause trouble for most people, but for someone like Todd, they can be a real problem,” she added.
©2008 Community News Group
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