Power outrage: PLG lawmaker accuses Con Edison of leaving communities of color in the dark

Power outrage: PLG lawmaker accuses Con Edison of leaving communities of color in the dark
Chandler Kidd

Some Prospect-Lefferts Gardens residents remained in the dark three days after Con Edison intentionally cut power to certain parts of the borough, and one local lawmaker is accusing the utility provider of stripping energy from communities of color in order to keep white customers cool.

“It is only in communities that look like ours that this is acceptable,” state Sen. Zelnor Myrie said. “We want the problem fixed now.”

The energy company cut the power to southern Brooklyn neighborhoods — including Canarsie, Marine Park, Mill Basin and parts of Flatbush — at around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, claiming the deliberate blackout was necessary to prevent damage to the grid during a heat wave that struck the city Friday.

However, because Prospect-Lefferts Garden residents residing on Hawthorne Street are tied into Canarsie’s power grid, the decision to shut off the lights in the southern Brooklyn neighborhood also affected their neighbors up north, according to Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, who relayed information provided by the utility company at a public meeting Tuesday.

At the gathering, Richardson claimed that hundreds of Hawthorne Street dwellers remained without juice as of Tuesday night, despite ConEd’s claim that power had been restored to all but one building along the thoroughfare.

“Currently on this block we have roughly 300 to 500 people, and I dare to say even more residents, who are currently affected,” Richardson said Tuesday afternoon.

A ConEd spokesman said preemptively cutting power was the best option at the time, as an outage was inevitable.

“The residents where we had to cut service during the heat wave were going to lose power regardless of whether we took action or not,” Robert McGee said. “They were being served by electrical lines that were failing under the extreme heat and power demand. The preemptive service disruption allowed us to restore those customers quicker than if we had done nothing. We regret the distress caused to our customers.”

The power outage rendered air conditioners and refrigerators barely functioning along the street, and Myrie said that inoperable elevators stranded elderly Hawthorne Street residents in their buildings, cutting them off from desperately need prescription refills and doctor appointments.

One senior Hawthorne Street resident, Legia Argentin, has lived with only one working light in her apartment since the blackout started.

“I had to run an extension cord to the only working outlet in my unit for my fridge to barely run. I hope they fix it soon. They are taking their time,” Argentin said.

The energy company has managed to restore service to more than 30,000 Brooklyn customers who lost power during the initial blackout, and Myrie blasted ConEd for leaving his constituents last.

Reach reporter Chandler Kidd at ckidd@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–2525. Follow her at twitter.com/ChanAnnKidd.