PSEG storm response angers Five Towners

Matthew Ferremi for LI Herald

August 05, 2020

Originally published in Long Island Herald on August 05, 2020.

Power is being restored across the Five Towns. Inwood is down to 39 customers without power, according to the latest PSEG-Long Island figures. Lawrence has 44 without power and Woodmere is down to 55. Far Rockaway has 50 customers without power. PSEG estimates that all power should be restored by Aug. 8. There are sporadic outages throughout the Five Towns, including the Stop and Shop in Inwood and the Pizza Place in Hewlett.  

A utility pole on Central  Avenue in Lawrence that has been tilted since the storm and has kept a stretch of the avenue closed since Tuesday is nearing repair, according to village officials. A good portion of the businesses in that area remain open and have power. Officials also said that an improved traffic pattern was implemented.

The Long Island Rail Road, which had shut down as debris from Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4   such as fallen trees and power lines littered the tracks, is now running systemwide and after having limited service on Aug. 5.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Long Island, Queens, the Bronx and State Island as well as Westchester and a few other counties north on Aug. 5. "We're taking an all-hands-on-deck approach and activating every resource at our disposal to expedite communities' recovery from the impacts of Tropical Storm Isaias, Cuomo said in a statement.  

For Five Towners the primary issue was  PSEG's storm response. 

"I'm very upset that PSEG did not learn from Hurricane Sandy," Hewlett resident Andrew Liebowitz wrote in a Facebook message to the Herald. "Why weren't branches cut down on a regular basis or rotted, potentially troublesome trees for that matter? I'm livid! I'm now extended until Saturday night at 10 p.m. This is awful."

“PSEG-Long Island’s entire communications system broke down,” said David Friedman, another Hewlett resident,  in response to a Herald Facebook post. “You could not get through on the phone, their app, the web page or texting. My power went out at 2:30 p.m. and came back on at 9:30 p.m., after I called Senator Todd Kaminsky’s aide who called in a repair order to a contact he has at PSEG-LI.”

Barbara Thompson said her experience with PSEG was identical. “Was very disappointed about the lack of communication and as of today at this very moment my neighbors and I on Roger Avenue inn, Inwood still are without power,” she posted on Facebook. “I did not reach out to the Senator’s contact because I know that many are without power and wanted to wait and give PSEG at least 24 hours to see if power on Roger Avenue would be restored. I pray that this will happen before nightfall. There are many in need of electricity for medical equipment, life vest,  nebulizer, oxygen, etc.”

Another Inwood resident, Miguel Martinez, write on Facebook: “Waiting for the electricity to come back on. Everyone has power, but me. When PSEG put a new electric poll, up earlier this year they switched the location of my power line, instead of in front of tree, they put it through the branches of the tree, I don't know why? That led to the failure. But what bothers me the most, is that PSEG, doesn’t even care to know what’s going on. They do not respond to anything (phone, internet, text, instant messaging, etc). Had to call 911 to let them know that I have a downed power line, which is still active. I’m waiting for the tree to catch on fire.”

On Wahl Avenue in Inwood, Frank Manzo was relatively unscathed by the storm. “We were fortunate,” he said, “we only lost power for about 15 minutes, but that’s it. Just some small trees and limbs down by me.”

Warren Rosenbloom who lives on Columbia Avenue in Cedarhurst recounted his close call. “A tree came down near my apartment building,” he said. “My car was parked about three spots from the tree as it fell on a dumpster.”

Hewlett resident Mark Philip posted this response to storm issues on Facebook: "Many of the downed trees and branches that caused fires and damage should have been trimmed back by PSEG months ago," he said.

A delegation of six Long Island state Senators: John Brook, James Gaughran, Todd Kaminsky, Anna Kaplan, Monica Martinez and Kevin Thomas sent a letter to the New York State Attorney General asking for an investigation.

"We write to request the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) conduct an investigation into PSEG Long Island, Verizon Wireless, and the Long Island Power Authority’s handling and lack of preparedness for Tropical Storm Isaias on Long Island," the state senators wrote. "While a powerful storm is beyond anyone’s control, the breakdown of these entities’ communications systems prohibiting Long Islanders from contacting customer service and reporting power outages is a deeply troubling failure that must be probed."      

There was a silverlining to the power going out on Aug. 5. "Rock and Wrap It Up! received a call at 5 p.m. from Trader Joe's that their power went out," Syd Mandebaum posted on Facebook. "We jumped into action and by 7 p.m. 7,000 pounds of food was given out at the Five Towns Community Center by Gammy's  Pantry to over 250 families. Diane Mandelbaum , Cheryl Mirkin and I moved all the food ourselves. Sasha Young arranged for a team to come in and organized the donation."

Young said it was like manna for heaven. "I  have to say the storm was nothing short of a miracle for the hundreds of families in Gammy's Pantry that were able to benefit at the FTCC," she write on Facebook. "Hundreds lined the property around the building till well after dark.  So many grateful faces! Our volunteers have heart! Thank you Rock and Wrap It Up! We appreciate you!!"