There is no other way to say this: the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) is a disgrace. This has nothing to do with those hardworking people up on utility poles; these guys are breaking their backs all over the island. It has to do with management and the mishandling of the greatest disaster to ever hit this area. There is no question that LIPA has bungled this recovery process, and Governor Andrew Cuomo better act quickly and decisively because people are still suffering.
Now going into the fifteenth day since Hurricane Sandy, there are about 90,000 homes still without power on Long Island. These people have been without electricity, which means they are also without heat and hot water. As the cold weather has come into the region, the fear of bursting pipes is all too real. There is also the question of this being a human rights issue. The quality of life for these people has hit rock bottom, and no one seems to be doing anything to speed the process.
To confound the situation even further, a number of the affected homes must undergo “inspection” before LIPA can even begin repairs. This is due to safety considerations or salt water damage, but the fact is that this red tape scenario only lengthens the process. Since there are not enough inspectors to go around, people are sitting in the dark under mountains of blankets, waiting for the system that has obviously failed them to get things right.
Many politicians and pundits are outraged by LIPA’s inability to get the job done. While Governor Cuomo has been harsh in his criticism of the authority, nothing seems to jumpstart their efforts. There has been talk by some of bringing in the Army or National Guard to take over operation of LIPA, but nothing is happening and people need action right now.
My thought is that LIPA’s management must be immediately removed and replaced by people who know how to get the job done. This could mean staff from another agency (like New Jersey’s PSEG that seems to be getting a much better job done) or from another country. There also has to be a long term plan to work on updating an antiquated power grid that is extremely vulnerable on Long Island. In all the time since Hurricane Irene (August 2011) LIPA has done nothing in the way of proactively preparing for the next big storm; therefore, we must assume it will learn nothing from this event and go about business as usual. We cannot and must not allow that to happen.
People in the New York area, particularly Long Islanders, have been suffering these past two weeks. There were two major storms, power outages, school closings, food shortages, and long gas lines. You must forgive some people if they are wondering what is coming next? A plague of locusts or pestilence (we’ve already had the plague of darkness)?
Still, despite all this suffering, there are people with a sense of humor. Civility is not in short supply, and many people have gone out of their way to help neighbors and friends. There have been large collections of food, water, and clothing for people in the flood ravaged areas of Breezy Point, Staten Island, Coney Island, and the Rockaways. The magnanimous nature of people is not being damaged despite the devastating physical impact of the storm on our area.
As the above video (with apologies to Taylor Swift) clearly shows, we have to find a bright light in the darkness, and that is inherently within the people who live here. They are close to broken, many hungry, cold, and angry, but they are hanging on. But how long can they? It is time for the government to step in, to stop the travesty of so many still waiting for the light, and end people’s misery. Take over LIPA now, Mr. Cuomo, before it is too late.
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