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.