Fiasco

I had a heated, profanity-laced conversation with a Con Ed executive last night.  Probably not my finest hour, but at least my yelling and screaming channeled the frustration that so many residents are feeling at the moment.

The specific topic of last night’s outburst was the utility’s failure to clear fallen power lines from a major road, after having pledged repeatedly to do so.  But lots of other failures could have stood in: the laughably unrealistic repair schedule estimates, the inability or unwillingness to provide real-time tracking of restoration crews to Con Ed’s own municipal representatives, the repeated, false statements from Con Ed reps claiming that public works crews must clear branches before the utility can repair electrical wires (it’s the other way around,) and, above all, the shocking inadequacy of resources, which makes progress painfully slow.  A fiasco on every level, with only the hard and dedicated work of the line crews and muni-reps offering some measure of balance to the atrocious command and control.

There are still more than 1,500 people without power in New Rochelle as of this morning.  And now we are heading into a severe winter storm that will: (a) force a suspension of operations, (b) create a whole series of new physical obstructions, (c) almost certainly result in multiple new power outages.  In other words, conditions are about to take several giant steps backwards.  During this weather-enforced pause in activity, I will be urging Con Ed to make a series of course corrections, so that they can be more efficient and responsive when restoration resumes.  I have no great faith that these pleas will be effective, but I feel obligated to try.

Although not particularly relevant to the community challenge, let me note that I am one of those without power.  We have a foot of water in our basement, and two very cranky children.  But I can’t really complain: we are able to stay in my mother’s apartment, none of us has a difficult medical condition, and on some level, this is a teachable moment for our kids.  They’ve heard in an abstract way about their grandparents’ experience as refugees — and maybe this expulsion from home gives them the tiniest fraction of a sense of what it means to be forcibly uprooted, albeit in a safe place, with iPhones and take-out pizza (which, admittedly, ruin the effect a bit.)

Please look out for your neighbors whose circumstances may be more difficult.  I will continue advocating to the best of my ability (and hopefully with more diplomacy and less screaming,) and we’ll get through this.  As I said at the conclusion of my recent State of the City Address, spring is coming — but winter sure isn’t leaving without a fight.