Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is it time to move power lines underground?

One last story from this week's Riverdale Review.

Power lines are the only thing holding up this fallen tree.
Residents, however, were left without power because of it.
By Brendan McHugh 

Storm after storm has ravaged Riverdale residents, killing tree after tree, which inevitably land on a power line or two. Or more. 

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is fed up with the situation. 

“This problem has continued for far too long and must be fixed,” he wrote in a letter to Consolidated Edison. “I strongly urge you to move the electrical wires in these areas underground, thereby eliminating the risk of interference by felled trees.” 

As of Monday, over 1,000 Bronxites were still without power, and Con Edison said they hoped to have solved the rest of the outages by Wednesday evening. Dinowitz says that if the electric and gas company would start putting wires in the ground, they could avoid the problem completely. 

“I surmise these power outages are related to the abundance of trees in these areas, and hence the increased likelihood of trees falling down and knocking down electrical wires,” he wrote. “We are in the 21st century, and there is no reason we should continue to rely on an unreliable and antiquated system of delivering power to the affected areas.”

Jump below for the full story.

Dinowitz focused on Riverdale, though the problem is just as dire on the opposite side of the borough as well. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” said City Councilman James Vacca. “The people on City Island have asked for that for years, but Con Ed says it’s too expensive.” 

Vacca did applaud Con Edison for doing a good job responding to residents’ complaints, and he pointed out that part of the reason so many trees are falling down is not only the severity of recent storms on the existing telephone poles, but also the lack of attention the city gives to existing trees. 

“So much of the damage we had would not have happened if we had a tree pruning program,” he said. “Deferring maintenance on our trees has caused a variety of problems.” 

Vacca said it takes an average of 10 years for the city to prune a tree. 

The city, instead, has spent their money and resources on the MillionTreesNYC program, where they’re trying to plant 1 million new trees by 2017. They’ve already planted 500,000. 

Jackie Kyle Kall, an 86-year-old real estate agent on City Island, has been imploring Con Edison to put the wires underground for years. 

“I’ve been through about, how many presidential elections and local elections?” she rhetorically asked, then referencing a timeframe around Mayor Ed Koch’s tenure. 

“The poles are like a hundred years old and they keep falling down,” she said. “If they’d fix it, we’d be very happy. But when will that happen? Not today.” 

A Con Edison spokesperson said the cost to a standard residential customer would be $7,000 to $10,000, because not only would the homeowners pay to put the wires underground, but also then each building would have to hook into the new system. 

Apartment buildings would cost more overall but presumably less per unit. 

Dinowitz said this would be a cost-cutting maneuver over time. 

“In the long run, surely the expense of implementing this change will be offset by the decreased reliance on emergency and overtime workers to repair outages,” he wrote, implying Con Edison rates should ultimately go down when they don’t have to cover the extra costs of maintenance. 

The State Public Service Commission sets Con Edison’s rates.

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