While many don't think twice about power outages or brownouts, it's a reality that businesses in the industrial section of Maspeth have constantly had to worry about for the past six years. And many of the businesses say that they aren't seeing any action being taken to have the problem solved.
“We've been here six years now and we notice that whenever it's a bad storm, the power gives out several times,” said Tom LoPresti, president of Axis Global Logistics LLC, a freight company.
The company, which runs on a 24/7 basis was so badly affected that they had to invest in a generator to keep their operation running. “Every time the lights shut off we had to go without power and it affected our New York, New Jersey, Minneapolis and other networks since everyone feeds into the computer system here,” he said.
The generator cost the company $15,000 to install, but at least for LoPresti, business keeps on going. The last power outage happened roughly three months ago and LoPresti noted that surprisingly, the power came back on rather quickly.
“It's not as devastating as it used to be. It used to be off for three or four hours,” he said.
Many of the companies in the area say that they see power outages as much as two to three times a week for some and “frequently” for others.
The power outages stem mostly from bad weather. Because the wires in the area are above ground and because the businesses pull so much power, a bad storm and open-air wires do not make for a good combination. But some businesses like Karp Associates, a family-owned supplier of access doors, noticed that the power also shuts off whenever trucks hit the transformers.
“The poles are slanted so the cables lean over and it doesn't clear the tops of trucks,” said George Kosser, vice president of operations at Karp Associates.
The power outages have forced the company to send workers home. According to Kosser, the outages come at “a weird array of timings.”
“We might not have any for six to nine months, and then when they start back we get them back to back for about three to four months,” he said.
The company decided to install a generator in one of their three facilities that automatically kicks in when the power shuts off.
Kosser said that he has contacted Con Edison about the problem, but he has yet to receive a sufficient reply.
“I can't even get through to somebody to file a complaint,” he said. “I sent a complaint to the public service office and got a minimal response. Nobody wants to take responsibility.”
Other businesses, including Axis Global have also tried to reach out to the energy company but to no avail.
Phillip Chavarria of Neri's Bakery distributors often gets blackouts for six hours, and he is also planning to buy a generator. He, too, has called ConEd but has received nothing so far in terms of a response. “Everybody in the area is complaining about this,” he said.
A Con Edison spokesperson noted that the energy company did receive complaints and did try to fix them. “The businesses are our customers,” he said. “They can contact us any way and we'll try to help.”
Kosser said that when ConEd did respond to him, he was told that they are not responsible for any losses due to power outages. “If this were Manhattan it wouldn't be tolerated,” he said. “This is something they should be able to handle.”
The spokesperson noted that this is an active policy. In cases where the outages are caused by a natural disaster or an act of God, they are not responsible for any losses due to outages.
Jean Tanler of the The Business Outreach Center Network (BOCN) has been on the ground in Maspeth working individually with businesses to help reduce the outages.
“Whenever there's an outage, we contact and work with ConEd to resolve the problem,” she said. “ConEd has told us that because most of the industrial portions of Maspeth are served by an overhead system, businesses are susceptible to outages due to weather, animals, and so forth. When businesses contact the Maspeth IBZ, we reach out to ConEd to resolve the problem and they, in turn, have been very responsive.”
She noted that if businesses have a problem with their electric or telecom service, that they should contact BOCN at (718) 205-3773.
“Businesses nowadays rely more and more on technology both for operations and to communicate with customers,” she said. “As a result, telecom and power outages present a serious issue.”