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.