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Lights out! Thousands lose power in heat wave

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The summer’s first heat wave hit Brooklyn full force, thanks to a Con Edison power outage on Sunday evening that left thousands without electricity and tens of thousands more jammed up in the subways.

System overloads caused power outages that affected nearly 3,000 residential customers, mostly in Boerum Hill. The blackout was also responsible for mucking up subway signals, slowing some lines and closing others.

“These were isolated equipment problems,” Con Edison spokesman Chris Olert said. “At any point, any piece of equipment can break. It’s bad luck of the draw.”

Con Ed was trying to restore power to about 640 residents and businesses in an area bounded by Pacific, Baltic, Hoyt and Court streets at around noon on Monday. The neighborhood’s electricity was fully restored by 5 pm that evening, Con Ed said.

“The heat was probably a factor” for the blackout, Olert said, adding that Con Ed was running above its normal capacity.

But Sunday evening’s vicious thunderstorms also knocked down cables, which contributed to the energy snafu, he said.

With the debacle of the Queens blackout still fresh on many New Yorkers’ minds, some complained that Con Ed had not done enough during the cooler months to prepare for the inevitable heat wave.

“We’ve seen this before — businesses shuttered as a result of Con Ed’s ineptitude,” said Councilman Eric Gioia (D–Queens) “How much more do we need to put up with before we say enough’s enough? This is what happens when an under-regulated monopoly runs amok.”

Olert rejected Gioia’s charge, saying that Con Ed spent $1.7 billion in new cables, transformers and substations across the five boroughs since last September. And the company has handed out $50,000 in payments to affected stores.

But the money did not prevent a blackout that lasted 24 hours for some people and affected service along the 2, 3, 4, F and G subway lines.

“We have a 2-year-old daughter, so we would have liked to turn on the A/C,” said Mike Grassotti, who lives on Smith Street at Warren Street and did not have power during the sweltering Sunday night. It was back by 8:30 am, he said.

But that wasn’t soon enough to avoid a disastrous morning rush hour, when service along the F and G lines remained spotty.

“We had to bring in generators to run the signals,” said Charles Seaton, spokesman for NYC Transit. “But they don’t produce as much power as Con Ed.”

Even as critics say that Con Ed is 0-for-1 so far this year, the state Department of Public Services, which regulates the energy giant, says it’s too early to pass judgment.

“An assessment [of the blackout] would be premature,” said agency spokeswoman Ann Dalton, who added, “They are being watched on a daily basis, 24/7.”

Updated 5:06 pm, July 9, 2018
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