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Con Ed is sticking it to the little guy!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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He may have been the victim of a crime, but Tommy Safian is the who is paying the penalty.

Con Edison has hit the furniture store owner with a bill for $1,400 that covers three months of service — even though Safian has years of documentation showing that he never had a monthly bill more than $50 at his Red Hook warehouse.

“It’s just an unmanned warehouse with an electric gate and some fluorescent lights,” said Safian, owner of Nova Zembla, an Atlantic Avenue furniture store. “There’s no way my bill could get so high — unless someone siphoned power from me. I’m certain of it.”

Safian said someone must have been stealing electricity from his feed during the months that his bill was outrageously high, but he can’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt — and Con Ed says Safian, not the energy giant, has the burden of proof.

“Con Ed’s requirements are impossible,” he said.

Safian said the monthly electric charges at his Coffey Street warehouse has been around $30 for 11 years, but in December, 2008, his bill jumped to nearly $250. It was high again in January, and in February it was a whopping $618.

Safian did what many self-respecting business owners would do: he didn’t pay the bill and filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission, the state agency that oversees Con Ed and other utilities.

His power charges went back to normal by March, but the $1,200 outstanding bills, plus about $200 in penalty charges, has yet to be resolved. Now, Con Ed keeps threatening to shut off the power, said Safian.

Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury said that the energy giant inspected Safian’s meter and found nothing wrong. “If someone had been stealing his electricity at the time of the inspection we would have noticed,” said Drury, but then admitted that the inspection was on March 18 — after Safian’s bills returned to normal, an electrical Catch-22.

For Safian, this Kafka-esque nightmare through New York’s power bureaucracy shows that big business isn’t looking out for the little guy.

“It’s like they are sticking their hand in my pocket and just taking my money,” said Safian.

Updated 5:35 pm, August 20, 2009
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Reasonable discourse

Michael from Bay ridge says:
If there is no sign that the meter has been tampered with, and he has had large bills before, why would you believe that someone is using power and charging it to his meter?
This whole article is based on an assumption, and I don't see what evidence points to someone using power at this man's expense. Perhaps something in his building is using more electricity than before (malfunctioning equipment?).
I don't know what you expect the power company to do. Just because he thinks that the bills are abnormally large, if there is no proof that someone is taking power from him and his meter is intact, why should the company excuse him from paying for the electricity they measured as having been used?
Especially if it is a bill for a summer month where air conditioning might have been running, which is a perfectly logical explanation for an unusually high bill in June - August.
Aug. 20, 2009, 6:59 am
Letters Editor from Brooklyn says:
Michael from Bay Ridge,

Did you actually read this article?

Mr. Safian HAS NOT had large bills before, and this happened from DECEMBER TO FEBRUARY, not June to August.
Aug. 20, 2009, 8:31 am
Jessica says:
Were those $50 bills estimated or actual bills? What actions are available before the PSC?
Aug. 21, 2009, 6:39 am
Joe from Flatbush says:
I'm not one to defend Con Ed but, If someone broke into your house and stole your Flat Screen TV, would you ask Best Buy for the money back?
Aug. 21, 2009, 7:23 am
Joe Nardiello from Carroll Gardens says:
Odd, but the more my family cuts back and focuses of energy-saving measures -- and the less our obvious usage is (our AC is set on 80). The HIGHER the bills come in -- its downright laughable now.

Should say upfront, that as a candidate for City Council/39th District -- focusing of electric bills and horror stories like this, to confront that agency in tandem with WHOEVER the next Public Advocate is... will be a priority. It's time for 100s of case stories to be known -- at one, and in public with Con Ed needing to answer for each. Con Ed has been sending unusually large bills across our area -- for about 2 years (I mean unusually high). Their "estimated bills" and the circumstance of your not being around for the meter-reading -- seems like their opening to gouge with an unusually high bill, of which you simply cannot talk down, leverage in any way of rant/browbeat the agent on the phone to handle more fairly. You have to pay, or pay over time. Our own last-month bill was 100% higher than than in '08, and this time I simply tucked it away. We've seen there rates rise 20-40% across very short terms, here.

Con Ed is sticking it not only to the little guy, but everyone. And right before everyone's eyes.
Aug. 22, 2009, 8:08 pm
Harry from So Brooklyn says:
Joe Nardiello from Carroll Gardens says: "Our own last-month bill was 100% higher than than in '08, and this time I simply tucked it away. We've seen there rates rise 20-40% across very short terms, here."
Same here. We were always energy-conscious, but got downright abstemious in the past year: have all energy-efficient stuff, all CFL/fluorescent bulbs, unplug (not just turn off) rarely used gear and appliances, use only necessary lighting ... But our Con Ed bills have risen 35 percent SINCE we became more abstemious.
To cut back any more, we'd have to trade the fridge for an icebox, charge our two low-energy-use laptops via hand-crank, and read by candelight.
Aug. 26, 2009, 1:04 am
Ricky From Bay Ridge from Bay Ridge says:
Same thing happened to one of our tenants. He made all the monthly payments on time. Then Con Edison send hims my tenant a letter stating that we have tampered with meter. We never did such thing the meters were never touched other then the time Con Ed came to read the meter. Now were disputing the charges and the best they can do is take off half the late fee. We were billed for 12g in back owed energy. Most of it was for late fees. They are thieves.
March 4, 2011, 3:06 pm
Bruce from Bronx says:
Con Ed should have their own TV reality show. They can call it- "How we got rich off the hard working middle class in New York!"
March 26, 2011, 3:32 pm

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