Officials Call Out Power Companies
By ROSS BARKAN
The rage in the Rockaways is growing by each powerless day.
Last week, more than 30 clergy and community leaders from across Queens blasted the Long Island Power Authority, Con Edison and City and Federal agencies for failing to coordinate an adequate relief effort for the thousands of people left without electricity and heat in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Two weeks after the storm struck the metropolitan area, almost 30,000 people on the Rockaway Peninsula and hundreds in other Queens neighborhoods are still without power. While volunteers and supplies pour into the storm-ravaged neighborhoods, a coalition of Queens clergy said that the supplies are not necessarily reaching all the people that need them most.
“There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” said Joseph McKellar, executive director of Queens Congregations United for Action, a coalition of eight congregations in the Borough. “I can’t emphasize enough how chaotic and disorganized the relief effort has been.”
McKellar and his allies gathered in front of the Rockaway Beach Library on Nov. 9, arguing that one leader was needed to oversee relief efforts. Space heaters desperately needed in Howard Beach, for example, were left outside for days in the rain-soaked Rockaways, he said. McKellar called for a “czar” to coordinate relief efforts in southern Queens, claiming that the various agencies, while good-intentioned, are not efficient enough.
“I have lost everything, but our leaders seem to have abandoned us,” said Donna Crockett, a resident of Howard Beach who is volunteering with QCUA. “The casinos at Aqueduct, in New Jersey, and lower Manhattan all have electricity, while families in Howard Beach freeze at night with no heat or electricity.”
On Nov. 8, elected officials and civic leaders also begged for a more coordinated plan to restore power to Queens residents. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Howard Beach) convened on Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Belle Harbor to criticize Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s storm response efforts. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appoints members of the maligned Long Island Power Authority’s board, has avoided criticism, however.
“The coordination and efforts to restore power and heat to the residents of southern Queens and Rockaway have been dismal and completely `unacceptable,” Goldfeder said. “As a result of inaction and neglect by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the Long Island Power Authority and Con Ed, the health and safety of our most vulnerable neighbors are being jeopardized.”
Bloomberg, Con Ed and LIPA have defended their response to Sandy.
“When I look at the damage we had on Long Island, I would tell you that I thought we did a very good job of restoration as well as preparation, but I will also tell you in our business, it is a continuous improvement process and we’ve learned a lot of lessons from Irene,” said Nick Lizanich, vice president of transmission and distribution at LIPA.
Reach Reporter Ross Barkan at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.