Residents, Officials Criticize Prolonged Outage

Town and state officials say O&R not communicating or responding to requests for linemen


About 30 residents of the Phillips Hill Road neighborhood in New City joined Clarkstown and Orangetown and state officials to criticize Orange & Rockland’s response to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy.  Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack, Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart, State Senator David Carlucci, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and Clarkstown Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard told the residents on Friday that O&R has not provided information about their crews or timetable for restoration of power.

“This is not their first emergency,” said Gromack. “They have not learned from these unprecedented storms. They have not learned. They have not gotten better.”  

Gromack said unfortunately town officials are not getting any more information than residents.

“The elected officials have been on them every day,” he said.

Stewart said his major concern was getting enough diesel to keep Orangetown’s sewage treatment plant running. He said getting power returned to the plant was the biggest priority for Orangetown.  An expected diesel fuel delivery of 1,000 gallons will keep the plant running normally through the weekend. Otherwise the plant would send nine million gallons of untreated sewage into the Hudson River.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) agreed to the officials’ request made Friday to send a PSC executive on Saturday to oversee Orange & Rockland.  They also asked the Governor’s office to appoint a permanent Public Utility Monitor for the duration of the storm recovery.

At the location where officials spoke, O&R workers have been stationed around the clock to make sure no one goes near the transformer and live wires lying in the middle of Phillips Hill Road.  Resident Beth Hecht said it was frustrating for people in the neighborhood to see the workers standing around instead of clearing the area to restore power.

Gromack said O&R workers could be better utilized if they were partnered with some of the county’s 500 town highway department employees to assess where there are live wires. Then the highway crews could begin clearing downed trees and branches and opening up roads. 

Zebrowski said O&R management told them days ago that area wide restoration information would be available in two days and that did not happen. He said they could not tell officials how many crews were available in Rockland and where they were. Zebrowski said they asked for 10 O&R employees to be assigned to work with town highway workers to assess lines and that has not been fulfilled.

“It’s just irresponsible and outrageous,” said Zebrowski. 

Carlucci emphasized as the power outage drags on more and more people were going without water, creating a dangerous situation.

“Safety is in jeopardy when people don’t have answers,” said Carlucci. “It’s really a failure of planning and management of O&R.”

Carlucci summed up the situation and said, “O&R is “MIA. They are put on notice for the crisis we are in.”

Eight state troopers have been assigned to Clarkstown to direct traffic at intersections without working signals.  Police have been reassigned to patrol areas without power and are deployed at gas stations to maintain calm. 

600 National Guard members are supposed to be arriving on Friday evening to help out in Rockland and Westchester.  They will be under the direction of O&R.

Nick November 03, 2012 at 01:48 AM
People just like to talk they don't care if your safe or if you've seen you kids or your family's ok it's just what about me poor me
Tom November 03, 2012 at 02:02 AM
I want to THANK O & R for doing what they can.
Tom November 03, 2012 at 02:04 AM
We all knew this was coming. If u were not prepared would u blame yourself?
Stacey Maher November 03, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Maybe half of O&R shouldn't have half their staff in Manhatten!
Siobhan November 03, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Everyone should come to the Clarkstown Board meeting on Thursday, Nov 8th and hear Ballard extol what a wonderful job Sparaco did for $75 thousand. Then there will be a vote to raise taxes by over 6%. Expect to hear how O&R is to blame for all of the fallen trees and downed wires. Gromack referred to O&R as "woeful". Andy Stewart sent out an email yesterday saying: " I was in a room this morning with ALL town supervisors, highway dept superintendents and state reps hammering on O&R for better cooperation.... our highway dept can not touch a tree tangled in overhead wires until an O&R technician secures the wire and confirms the tree is not energized. We have dozens of highway workers waiting to tackle trees..." So the 'set-up' of who to blame is being set up in 'hammering meetings'. Hey, Ballard, there are a ton of trees down and NOT leaning on ANY power lines. Some are down on houses. If you have 'dozens of highway workers waiting to tackle trees' get your butt over to Brewery Road, Strawtown Road, etc and get "hammering". Tell me, Wayne, did you and Gromack have any meetings with O&R after Hurricane Irene to set up contingency plans for a repeat event? You told the Bardonia Civic Association you hired Sparaco because Hurricane Irene changed your life. It didn't change your life enough if you didn't establish a contingency plan with O&R and your only plan involved a political hire. Gromack, Stewart et al stop blaming O&R and look in your own mirrors!
Nora Henderson November 03, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Quite simply everyone should be taking personal responsibility for themselves. We knew this storm was coming. Generators were available, batteries, dry ice, extra ice cubes, invertors (those little electric thingies you can plug into your car charger and plug things like LED lights and phone chargers into) canned meats and other prepared foods (lets face it those with gas stoves could cook and I don't know anyone without a barbeque) powered milk, flashlights, candles, etc etc etc. We knew this storm was coming. We were prepared. We got power back today...but we would have been just fine for another 3 or 4 days. We have 3 trees on our house, our car, fence, shed, chimney, hot tub were all crushed, windows broken siding ripped off roof has holes....and we still managed just fine. I personally am weary of inept people blaming everyone around them for their own problems. It wasn't hard to prepare for this storm....what the heck were some of you complainers doing? You had a least a week and you should have known we were going to have trees down and power out...we have with everyone of the last big storms. COuld O & r do a better job? you bet...but so could all of you!
steve they actually cleaned up a very critcal road in new city ..it is WARTON LANE!!!!!!a 300 to 400 long road that ready? has no houses on it...well maybe one driveway..lol..I walk the street almost every day..it is between seymour and lafayette drive..on tuesday after the storm they had 4 trucks and crews cutting up a tree that fell across it..then ready?? on thursday nov. 1st they brought a container truck and 4 more trucks and crews to cut branchs off the trees along the road!!!totally amazing..all for a 400 foot long road that connects too streets that dont need connecting...even the mail guy couldnt beleive what was happening as he had to wait to deliver mail because they blocked the street off!!!PERHAPS BECAUSE OF WHO LIVES IN BOTH HOUSES ABUTTING WARTON LANE ON SEYMOUR IS WHY THE UNWARRANTED USE OF SOO MANY PEOPLE TO CUT BRANCHS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY IS THE REASON.. THERE are two cars that look like Unmarked cars..cough cough cough..how about gromach look into why this travesty took place when sooo many important streets needed attention..then again maybe one has to have an unmarked car on its driveway to get things done..
Nora Henderson November 03, 2012 at 03:09 AM
As an added note folks....It is heartwrenching to see the complete devastation in Staten Island, Breezy Point, Lindenhurst, Fire Island, The ENTIRE NJ coast, Hoboken, Broad Channel, The Rockaways, and so many other areas....are you really whining because you don't have electric? Wanna Keep warm? Load up your car with blankets, dry food, extra clothing and find your way down to Staten Island, Give all that stuff to the first Salvation Army truck you can find....then find someone who has lost everything and take them home with you and take care of them for a few days. I assure you they would darn well appreciate a roof over their heads even if they don't have heat....some of you need a real crisis.....
Paul J. Cohen November 03, 2012 at 03:31 AM
OK - boo hoo - O&R workers are out there 24/7. How much freaking overtime are you willing to eat? Give me a break! I can't go to work but you are earning double and even triple time! I feel sooooo sorry for you. YOUR COMPANY WAS WARNED several time in advance and did NOTHING to prevent any of this. So don't throw this in our faces. You did it last time and you will do it every time. Your response time SUCKS and your website is absolutely worthless. I find it amazing that my neighbor has power yet everyone else around me has none. Now there is a run on gas and a shortage. Its amazing what a wonderful job you are doing to restore power. GET REAL O&R you messed up again and you will never learn.
Paul J. Cohen November 03, 2012 at 03:31 AM
I am not a happy camper right now!
Clarkstown life November 03, 2012 at 06:49 AM
Nora......you have my vote......personal responsibility.....a long lost art
Siobhan November 03, 2012 at 09:09 AM
"PERHAPS BECAUSE OF WHO LIVES IN BOTH HOUSES ABUTTING WARTON LANE ON SEYMOUR IS WHY THE UNWARRANTED USE OF SO MANY PEOPLE TO CUT BRANCHES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY IS THE REASON." Who lives there? Be clear and name them! Were the workers town employees? Are you hinting that the unmarked cars are town cars. You need to clear all of this up or unfounded rumors will start propagating.
Carol LoRusso November 03, 2012 at 02:52 PM
what do rolling eyes sound like?? They must have been online, the tree, line and watchpersons are gone.
Sukhman Dhami November 03, 2012 at 03:58 PM
If Nora H. knew this storm was coming and was able to prepare for it so well, surely O&R should have had the foresight to prepare? After all, as professionals, they should be able to do a better job of anticipating the impact of weather than a lay person. Nora H, you should be commended for your foresight- you managed to do what an entire company was not capable of, simply by listening to the news. But there is a simple resolution to this debate- after the mess is cleared up- have public hearings into whether O&R adequately prepared for the storm. It shouldn't be difficult at all to examine O&R management and employees, and review their records and communications, do termine exactly what their reaction was to this storm. These hearing should also include a thorough examination of county officials, as Siobhan's post raised important issues that go to the heart of government competency, corruption, and democracy.
Dom November 03, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Everyone complaining about Orange & Rockland Utilities not doing anything to repair the outages, you should all be ashamed of yourselves. These men and women have been pretty much out there (around the county) since monday. Don't you think they want to be at home with their families making sure they are ok. No, they are out there trying to restore power so you can live better. During Hurricane Irene, a small child was died from electricution. Thats why O&R has people sitting at locations watching wires. They hired over 400 people to do that and simply just that. Watch wires so stupid people like yourselves do not touch them and DIE. Everyone needs to suck it up and lets get through this all TOGETHER. Especially the lady in the above video. She should be ashamed of herself and so should her family to allow her to be put on the media making a fool of herself. I am a police dispatcher here in rockland county and you have no idea what the emergency and utility workers have been doing to make things easier AND safer for the residents of Rockland County. Before you run your mouth about people, maybe you should be out there helping with the problem, not being part of the problem. GROW UP.
neil r. borodkin November 03, 2012 at 05:17 PM
As one Nyack police officer told me Tuesday AM--now that O&R is really owned by Con Ed, they don't give a damn up here. And when you weigh-in with all the resources that were appropriated for the NYC Marathon, you see part of the pic about priorities. All over that utility companies do seem ill-prepared though.
amy durbin November 03, 2012 at 05:46 PM
generators only last so long without gas, batteries, dry ice, ice, canned meats likewise only last so long. My problem is not the outage. My problem is the lack of communication. After charging my phone in the car, the O&R site said all power would be restored on 11/11. No other information. Nobody being turned on before or after that? Cant get through on the phone. I don't think that information is too much to ask and no one but O&R can be responsible for that.
Thomas Leonard November 03, 2012 at 09:35 PM
After Irene, Mr. Gromack said he would meet with O&R to make sure O&R's response would be better for the next disaster. Did that happen? And if so, why was O&R's response worse? Our leadership is just pathetic.
stephany November 03, 2012 at 09:43 PM
too many o$r workers responding here instead of making OT or double OT +1/2
Clarkstown life November 03, 2012 at 10:13 PM
a once in a century storm and power is coming back within seven days....i dont think that is too terrible....
jim November 03, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I'm sorry, I can't support the viewpoints of people supporting O&R. When you are a public utility, you have the pleasure of having a monopoly that other industries cannot enjoy. Your number one job is to ensure all your customers have power. A reasonable time can be given to restore power. 2 weeks is not a reasonable time. If you can't do the job then you don't belong in the business of providing electricity.
allan erps November 03, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I am still without power but do not blame O & R as much as I blame the lazy, pocket full politicians who have raised our taxes(especially Nanuet) to unbelievable levels. My vote is counting next Tuesday and all the incumbents are gone! Vanderhoef leaving with a healthy pension and Bank Account as well. Will say it again, consolidate Police Departments, Schools & stop paying astronomical salaries to all these deadbeats!
Kathy Hilderbrand November 03, 2012 at 11:19 PM
I can't believe all the people complaining about O&R. Trees that are leaning on wires should have been taken care before the storm by the town. Stop complaining about O&R. I am sure they are doing the best they can with what resources they have! BTW...My family is still without power. A minor inconvenience to say the least! At least we have our lives!
Wayne Edwards November 04, 2012 at 12:56 AM
I have to say O&R has done a great job....at getting their paid shills to leave comments here! Sad thing is I live in New Jersey and got stuck with O&R as my electric company...I guess the local politicians had their palms greased by O&R since all the other neighborhoods around here have PSE&G....I have seen PSE&G trucks all over the place restoring power but have yet to see a SINGLE O&R TRUCK ALL WEEK...not one. I am sure being out of their home state our small New Jersey neighborhood is last on the list. Yeah, it's my fault that I didn't buy a five thousand dollar gas-powered generator for my rental unit and that I am freezing in the dark. No, it's 100% O&R's fault that they haven't properly communicated what's going on, they have barely made a dent in restoring power, and that they are totally incompetent. They are the WORST electric company, period. I hope their contract is not renewed in either New York or New Jersey because they are horrible.
Will B November 05, 2012 at 03:24 PM
O&R is shameful, i lost power about 12:30 monday AFTERNOON that is. You are idiotic if you think the response and prep for this storm is acceptable. Only cat1 storm with little rain. What if this was MAJOR storm cat3 or above, Would we be with without electric all month?! Think about it before being a jackass and supporting other idiots like yourself with heads far up your union ass.
Don November 05, 2012 at 03:51 PM
The town is going to cut down every 100-ft tree that can potentially fall on a wire?
Sick-n-Tired November 05, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Wasn't all that tree trimming done this past summer supposed to prevent problems like this? If these politicians want to pass a useful law then how about this... power company executives must be the last ones to have their power restored in outage situations like this.
Paul J. Cohen November 05, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Learn how to spell - it's Manhattan! I guess ignorance truly is bliss.
Paul J. Cohen November 05, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I actually have a compliment. I want to thank all of the hard working people at Costco for stepping up and trying to help the community. The lines are long but they are open 24 hours during this emergency and the people there have been keeping everything very orderly and controlled. I went there last night and it took me 5 minutes to get all the gas I needed. I know that other gas stations are trying and I know they don't want it to be this way but Costco has certainly done something right. I hope everyone is safe, with power and everything else they need.
D. Greene November 09, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Day 11 and still no power in Hewitt NJ. The website stated from the very beginning that we would be back up by the Nov. 8th. Well that came and went. This is aweful...especially with children involved. O&R needs better management in such a crisis. It is obvious that whoever is running the show now is doing a terrible job.


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