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LIPA Management Must Go – Still No Power For Many on Long Island

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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.

Photo Credit: libn.com

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Shawn

    I can’t agree more. The question for me is how to get it done. How do we organize to compel the revocation of LIPA’s charter? And what do we do then? PSE&G has already been hired to replace National Grid in 2014 or 2015, I think. If we start having a storm a year like this, though, how much of Long Island’s power infrastructure will be left for them to manage? I liked Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s idea about bringing in the army (perhaps the Army Corp. of Engineers?) to run LIPA, to insure a proper clean up of the mess from the storm and to start the power authority down the road of modernization. LIPA’s performance has gone beyond the level of mere incompetence, though. I think it has reached the level of gross, and even criminal negligence.. I think a criminal investigation of LIPA is called for.

    So far, Gov. Cuomo has been vocal in his disgust with LIPA and their mismanagement of our power infrastructure. But words only go so far. He hasn’t pulled their charter yet; maybe he never will. Maybe we need the Feds to step in. But this much I think most Long Islanders know for sure: LIPA’s got to go. And I think right now works for most of us.

  • tomlinfrank

    LIPA couldn’t respond to customer emails, but it found the time to redo its outage map with less information. Their outage page no longer gives the total number of customers served, because it was making it too easy to compute percentages out. LIPA had previously stated on the outage report page that it removed the “customers served” column from its chart because it was “confusing” customers, and that was a big lie. JCPL has been far more transparent in this regard, and its outage report shows the percentage of customers affected. LIPA went into CYA and face-saving mode immediately after the storm, and these ads it is running on PIX-11 are like pouring salt into a wound. Should a regulated monopoloy be even allowed to advertise and charge advertising costs to its cost of doing business? All of its customers are a captive market within each of its service areas.

  • Frank Tomlin
  • sjoy

    As a former Long Islander who has moved to Texas, I can tell you what the problem is. We here in Texas face a yearly threat from hurricanes, torndaoes and severe thunderstorms. The main reason for electrical failure is trees. When trees grow under powerlines they will knock out the power during the storms. Then the power company has to remove the trees from the downed power line before they can even begin to repair the power line. Now if LIPA came to your home and said they were going to cut down all the trees under or around the power line, how many of you and your neighbors would raise a stink about that. I’ve lived there, I know that cutting down a tree is not something any Long Islander would allow. So instead, you would rather complain that LIPA is a failure, when in fact, they are only doing the best they can considering the job they face. Long Islanders need to rethink they’re love affair with trees.

  • ransom

    No one better even think about cutting down my trees.

  • It is what it is

    It is so easy to make negative comments from the outside looking in, Lipa has been hit with the worse possible scenario. On one hand you try to manage a system with the costumer in mind (rates keep them low) so you try to keep the Over head costs low, on the other hand you have to try and prepare for the unforeseen. lets face it its easy to say what should have been done hind sight is 20/20. It costs roughly 3 times as much to install facilities underground than overhead! So who pays for that,the consumer. How much faster is it to repair over head power lines than underground, especially when you have the inland flooding that has come this disaster ? I do have sympathy for the people who are still with out power, keep in mind there have been more power line repair personnel called to serve, with this disaster than any other disaster in the past. IT IS JUST THAT A DISASTER !

  • Tory

    You have to be kidding defending LIPA in any way whatsoever. My aunt is still there without power and has not wanted to leave her home for a hotel nor her dog for any other living arrangement. By next week I may forcibly go and get her. This is beyond disgusting. Yes, disgusting. She is 86 damn years old and her neighbors are 80+ that have gas at least and have fed her. There is NO justification for this, not trees, not oh poor LIPA, NOTHING.

  • Igor

    It might help to get serious about undergrounding power lines. We’ve been doing that in California for about 30-40 years and it really pays off in terms of reduced maintenance and aesthetics. Most sizable towns are now undergrounded. Sometimes property owners will do it to improve their property values and appearances. I once did that myself, at some expense, to improve appearance and reduce risk of having treasured old trees trimmed or removed. The money came back in increased property value when the property was sold.

    Maybe LIPA, which I assume is a commercial monopoly, should be reverted to a municipal utility. The power of elected town councilmen and county commissioners is great in those circumstances.

    There was a fad of ‘privatisation’ back in the Reagan years that converted Utilities into private companies, but citizens lost control of the utilities and I think it was a mistake.

  • Steven Solomon

    I am mad like the rest of you and I have never been involved in politics but. I can not let this pass. I have gone 12 days with out heat and power and what makes it worst no information at all , Could some one let me know how I can legally fight lipa and get rid of the management
    I will watch and follow every public official and see how they respond,to this now and in the future and I will support the officials who help remove lipa management

  • Above Average Joe

    Let’s remember to include ALL the parties rightfully to blame in this matter. In case you did not know… many of those “out of state” workers who came to our rescue were redirected to other states before they even arrived here because as per Newsday, Local 1049 of the IBEW – International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, demanded that any out of state workers sign a temporary agreement to become members of the IBEW before the union would allow them to begin any repairs. If any non-union workers were to start repairs, the IBEW would take union members off the job in order to picket the out of state workers.

    One of these letters was sent to the Florida Municipal Electric Association Executive Director Barry Moline on October 29th, just as the storm was first hitting the shore in the north east. Mr. Moline then redirected his crews to other states which had requested assistance.

    By November 8th, Don Daley, business manager for local 1049 told reporters, “There hasn’t been a union-non-union issue here since the severity of the storm became obvious.” What Mr. Daley did not specify was that by the time “the severity of the storm became obvious” to him and the “letter of assent” was lifted by the union, 4 days had already passed. By that time most if not all of the crews from other areas providing help, had already been located into other damage areas.

    YES, LIPA management sucks as bad as LILCO’s did but both had to deal with asinine demands from “mob-like” unions!