11/10/12 1:25pm
11/10/2012 1:25 PM

“We are done dealing with LIPA Headquarters,” County Executive Steve Bellone declared Saturday, joining a chorus of state and local officials from Governor Cuomo on down who have decried LIPA’s slow pace in fully restoring power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter that followed it this month.

Mr. Bellone said he had “cut ties with LIPA headquarters and has begun directing local assets to expedite restoring power.”

He made the declaration in announcing that he would hold a press conference on the issue at 2 p.m. Saturday at the parking lot of the LIPA-National Grid office in Brentwood.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone became the latest public official to speak out against LIPA’s response to Hurricane Sandy today.

11/08/12 10:36am
11/08/2012 10:36 AM
LIPA, Sandy, Reeves Park, Riverhead, Long Island

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Roberta’s house in Reeves Park is the only property in the neighborhood still without electricity after Sandy, she says.

By now, a lot of people have their electricity back in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

I got mine back Tuesday, and when you first get your power back it seems, to you at least, that Sandy is no longer a problem.

But there are many without power. And in some cases, it doesn’t seem to make sense why some houses have power and some don’t, or why fate chose the people it chose to leave in the dark.

Such is the case with Roberta. She lives in Reeves Park and still had no power as of Wednesday afternoon, though she says everyone else in her neighborhood does.

Even without electricity, Roberta, who didn’t want her full name used, has her hands full.

Her 87-year-old mother, a stroke victim, is paralyzed on one side and can’t get around by herself. Her 13-year son has Down’s syndrome. And Roberta doesn’t drive.

When LIPA repairmen came around over the weekend to restore electricity to the rest of her neighborhood, they told Roberta they couldn’t restore hers because the tree that had fallen on her house, pulling power lines down with it, had also crushed the electric meter box.

LIPA told Roberta she would have to get a private electrician to fix the box before they could come back and reconnect the power lines to her house. She had the box fixed, but getting LIPA back to restore the wires wasn’t proving too easy.

“I asked when they were coming back and they didn’t have an answer,” she recalled. “I said, ‘But you told me I had to have all this work done and you would come back.’ And now it’s getting cold.”

On Monday, a neighbor took them to stay at her house.

Roberta said her mother and son are both “out of their routine” and are constantly asking when they’re going home.

A few years ago, I guess, it could have been me grappling with a similar situation.

I had a brother with Down’s syndrome, and my mother was old and had “small strokes” that made it tough for her to get around or communicate. We took it a few steps further, too. We also had an even older father who was perfectly healthy but loved to get mad about things like this and the psychotic dog, which allegedly bit a guy who then sued us for $2 million.

And sometimes, the Down’s syndrome brother would open the gate and let the psychotic dog out of the house, which gave my father something else to get mad about, and I’d have to try to catch the dog before it attacked somebody.

But that was then. Now, it’s just me.

My other brother, who lives nearby, was mentioning the other day that it’s a good thing we didn’t have this kind of storm and power outage back then. There was Hurricane Gloria, but that happened in mid-September when it was warmer — and in 1985, when all those people were younger.

Something like this, in the cold, would be much harder.

As Roberta is discovering.

She has since found that she couldn’t even get LIPA on the phone anymore.

On Monday, the neighbor, who also didn’t want her name use, decided to contact the media. She contacted us. I went down there.

At first, I thought maybe she was calling the wrong numbers at LIPA. So I called the number I had just called the day before, since my power was out too, and, like Roberta, it seemed like everyone else in my neighborhood had gotten power back already.

No dice. Once you’ve made a report, an answering machine tells you they have the report, and it hangs up on you.

So I tried calling the LIPA public relations people. Certainly, they wouldn’t be the ones to come down and fix the power, but sometimes a little press attention will get some action.

The LIPA spokesperson, Karen Ryan, looked into the situation and eventually called back. She said a LIPA crew could be at Roberta’s house at an “estimated time” of 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Of course, on Wednesday, a Nor’easter, and more outages, were forecast. Roberta asked if they could make it Tuesday. The LIPA spokesperson said there are thousands of people in the same situation, and that there were other homes in Reeves Park without power and that Wednesday 9 a.m. estimate was the best they could do.

So Roberta took it.

I drove by Roberta’s house on Wednesday morning at about 10:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. The wires were still sitting on the ground, and the new storm was getting stronger. She was still without power today.

LIPA needs to assign a unit to answer calls such as Roberta’s.


11/01/12 12:56pm
11/01/2012 12:56 PM
Jamesport, North Fork, Hurricane Sandy, Long Island

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Houses on Dunlookin Lane in Jamesport are without power and many have flooded-out basements.

Riverhead residents still without power from Hurricane Sandy will be facing a weekend of near-freezing temperatures, according to weather reports.

There’s a gas shortage to boot, so generators may soon be quieting down as well.

So staying warm may be a problem for many in the coming days.

Temperates will remain 40 and above into Friday — reaching 57 today — but the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures will drop into the 30s Saturday and Sunday, with a predicted low of 37 degrees on both days.

Riverhead Town will operate a warming station for residents to seek shelter between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Riverhead Senior Center on Shade Tree Lane in Aquebogue.
For more information, call the Senior Center at 631-722-4444.

Kathleen Burke and her husband, Tom, of Laurel said this week that they’re grateful they have a fire place, even though they’ve been without power.

“We haven’t had to use the fireplace yet,” Ms. Burke said, “but things are about to turn.”

According to the LIPA outages map as of about noon, 6,772 customers were without power in Riverhead Town, with another 821 customers out in Flanders and 834 in Riverside/Northampton in Southampton Town.

Some 278, 000 LIPA customers out of the 619,00 in Suffolk County remain affected by the storm.

LIPA is urging all residents to report assumed downed power lines are live, and to report them (800) 490-0075.

On Thursday morning, both Jonathan Shipman of Shamrock Tree Company said they couldn’t spare a second to talk as they worked to chop up downed trees in Laurel.

For those with generators, the gasoline shortage in Riverhead may prove worrisome.

Staffers at Lighthouse Marina, located at 229 Meeting House Creek Road in Aquebogue, said unlike some marinas east of them, Larry’s Lighthouse did not sustain any damage to the docks during the storm, and that the marina has both regular gasoline and diesel fuel for boats.

The marina is willing to fill up gas cans for generators, if needed.



11/01/12 7:48am

PETER BOODY PHOTO | LIPA trucks arriving on Shelter Island Monday morning. LIPA said Wednesday evening that an additional 1,969 utility personnel are on way to Long Island to assist in the restoration effort.

When Tropical Storm Irene struck the North Fork 14 months ago, Tom and Kathleen Burke only lost power for six hours, even as the neighbors on both sides of their home on Bray Avenue in Laurel had to struggle through a blackout that lasted several days.

The Burkes were lucky then. Not so much now.

Two days after Hurricane Sandy struck the North Fork, the couple spent Wednesday morning at a table inside Wendy’s Deli in Mattituck. They were close to hitting 48 hours without power and they weren’t alone.

Sandy brought record outages to Long Island, where more than 900,000 customers were powerless at the storm’s peak and LIPA has warned that some customers will not be able to turn their lights on until late next week.

“The damage caused to Long Island’s electric system has been devastating,” LIPA officials said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

The impact has certainly been felt on the North Fork. As of Wednesday morning, more than 15,000 LIPA customers in Southold and Riverhead towns were still in the dark, most of them having lost their power sometime Monday afternoon.

The Burkes said the lights went out at their house around 5 p.m. Monday. Wendy’s owner Wendy Zuhoski said her deli has been packed with area residents looking for hot coffee, fresh food and a place to plug their lives back in.

“This is civilization,” Mr. Burke remarked. A civilization seeking lights and Internet.

At Panera Bread in Riverhead more than a half-dozen folks had turned their breakfast tables into workstations Wednesday. Some said they had power in their homes but not phone or Internet. Others, like Calverton resident Dennis Anderson, just needed a charge.

“I need to be able to communicate with my family,” he said as he sat quietly at his table, occasionally checking the battery life on his iPad and iPhone. Mr. Anderson was coming off a good run in which he was able to go more than 40 hours without charging either device after losing power around 3 p.m. Monday. With 3,436 outages as of Wednesday, Calverton was the North Fork hamlet with the most LIPA customers still in the dark.

A teacher at Suffolk Community College’s Eastern Campus in Riverhead, he said he’s been spending his days catching up on reading.

Kathy Chamberlain of Mattituck said she’s also been keeping sane by reading since losing cable but not power Monday afternoon. A self-proclaimed news junkie, she’s also been keeping tabs on the storm via Internet by listening to talk radio and following blogs.

It hasn’t been so bad she said, except for the cold shock her feet got Wednesday morning when she went to take a shower.

“I forgot I had filled the tub with water,” she said with a laugh.

Ms. Burke said she also filled her tub and was grateful to learn later that Waldbaum’s in Mattituck was selling bags of chopped ice and gallons of spring water for 99 cents in the days following the storm.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 2,500 LIPA customers in the Mattituck-Laurel area remained powerless.

“It’s the whole neighborhood,” Ms. Burke said.


10/28/12 7:57am
10/28/2012 7:57 AM

PETER BOODY FILE PHOTO | A LIPA crew at workng to fix an outage following Tropical Storm Irene last year.

The Long Island Power Authority said it is prepared for the damage expected when Long Island feels the worst impacts of Hurricane Sandy but residents should plan for power outages that could last from 7 to 10 days, according to a press release issued Saturday.

Storm safety tips, power outage information, preparedness tip, an informational video and guidance on LIPA and National Grid’s approach to storm restoration can be viewed on the LIPA storm center page.

The utility is encouraging its customers to pre-register their cell phones to report outages and receive restoration updates via text. To register, text REG to 695472 (myLIPA). After registration, to report an outage please text OUT to 695472 (myLIPA).

Customers without power can also call 1-800-490-0075.

LIPA’s walk-in customer service centers will be closed Monday and Tuesday and may be closed through the end of the week. Call 1-800-490-0025 to check if a center is open.

The utility offered several tips for weathering the storm.

Never touch or go near fallen wires, even if you think they are safe. If a vehicle that comes in contact with a downed wire, stay in inside until help arrives.

Be sure to have a working, battery powered radio or TV and a good supply of fresh replacement batteries.

Have flashlights available for all family members.

If an electric pump supplies household water, fill spare food-grade containers with water for cooking and washing in anticipation of a possible power interruption.

Make sure all motor driven equipment, such as garage door openers, can be operated manually.

When using a portable generator, make sure all LIPA-powered equipment is disconnected. This will avoid severe hazards when reconnecting the power to your home or business.

Have a first aid kit at home and check its contents to make sure they are complete and up to date. If you have family members with special medical needs, such as insulin or other prescription drugs, check to make sure you have an adequate supply.

Do not use charcoal to cook indoors; deadly carbon monoxide gas can accumulate in your home.

If you have an elderly neighbor, check on his or her status. Even a quick telephone call during a storm can provide much appreciated assurance that help is nearby if needed.

Should an electric power interruption occur, all sensitive equipment, such as computers and TVs should be disconnected until service is restored.

08/27/12 10:00am
08/27/2012 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Downtown Riverhead on a particularly slow morning.

There are not as many people on the East End as we thought.

That’s according to the latest LIPA Population survey, which shows the population of every municipality on Long Island declining between 2010 and 2011.

The LIPA population estimates also were adjusted to reflect population estimates in the 2010 Census, according to Mark Gross, LIPA’s Director of Communications.

The Census figures also found that the population on Long Island was not as great as in LIPA’s previous population estimates, which are issued yearly.


In Riverhead Town, which had the greatest percentage growth of any Suffolk County town since 2003, the LIPA estimates for 2011 show the population dropping from 34,191 in its 2010 population estimate to 33,455 in 2011, a number that’s lower than what LIPA estimated in 2007.

The 2010 Census put Riverhead Town’s population at 33,506.

In Southold Town, LIPA’s 2011 population estimate of 21,965 is not only seven percent lower than its 2010 estimate of 23,707, it’s also lower than what LIPA estimated that town’s population at in 2004. The 2010 Census put Southold’s population at 21,968.

In Shelter Island, the LIPA estimate dipped from 2,546 in 2010 to 2,396 in 2011. That number also is lower than LIPA’s 2003 estimate for Shelter Island. The 2010 Census put Shelter Island’s population at 2,392.

And in Southampton Town, the LIPA estimates had the town population dropping from 60,693 in 2010 to 56,800 in 2011, a six percent drop to a number that’s also lower than LIPA’s population estimate for Southampton Town in 2003. The 2010 said Southampton Town had 56,790 people.

The Long Island Regional Planning Board, in a 2011 analysis comparing Census and LIPA figures, estimated that both were caught off guard by the economic downtown.

“In all likelihood, both the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates program and the LIPA annual population survey did not capture the sudden but widespread effect on the region’s housing and immigrant populations of the 2007-2010 economic down turn,” wrote Seth Forman, the chief planner for LIRPC. “That is, an increase in the number of housing vacancies, caused by home foreclosures and the departure of low-skilled, mostly undocumented immigrant laborers from abroad due to job declines, eluded the most commonly used survey and forecasting methods.”

The 2011 LIPA Population survey, released this year, is the company’s most recent. The 2012 survey won’t be released until 2013, Mr. Gross said.

LIPA’s estimates are based on utility records on Jan. 1 of each year, but they also use the most recent Census information to estimate the number of persons per household in a given community.

“We adjust the population per household and the household per meter factors as per the Census every 10 years and that’s why our numbers are close to the census numbers,” Mr. Gross said.

That’s also why the numbers are lower than the 2010 LIPA estimates.

“This a study/estimate, not a Census,” he said of LIPA’s population survey.


LIPA Population Survey 2011

08/02/12 4:00pm
08/02/2012 4:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Greg Fischer speaks at a Suffolk 9-12 meeting last year, when he was running for Riverhead Town Supervisor.

Should the Long Island Power Authority’s board of trustees be elected?

When LIPA was originally created by the State Legislature to replace the troubled Long Island Lighting Company, it was supposed to have an elected board of trustees, according to South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who has filed bills to try and make the board elected.

However, the state eventually made it an appointed board.

Or did they?

That’s a point Calverton resident Greg Fischer is looking to challenge.

The state Public Authorities Law was updated during the administration of former Gov. George Pataki to clearly indicate that the 15 trustees of LIPA are appointed, but state elections law still contains references to a LIPA board as being elected by the people.

Mr. Fischer and two other men, attorney Bill Jurow from Brookhaven Town and Roger Scott Lewis, a Democratic committee member in Southampton Town, have collected more than 600 signatures on petitions seeking to run for LIPA trustee.

The three men have also filed litigation against both the Suffolk and Nassau county boards of elections to try to force them to accept their petition.

“These positions should be on the ballot,” Mr. Fischer said in an interview. “We’re trying to force a public election of LIPA trustees.”

Mr. Fischer, who ran unsuccessfully last year for Riverhead Town Supervisor and who has run for other elected positions in the past, believes that under the wording of the law, they must be put on the ballot as candidates for the LIPA board, even though, at present, there isn’t a ballot for that position.

Several local officials said they agree that the LIPA board should be elected, and that Mr. Fischer has uncovered a loophole in the law. But they don’t think he’ll be successful.

“It was an oversight, but do I think it was a fatal flaw? No,” said county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), adding that he believes the LIPA board should be elected.

“I just think that our voices are not being heard and LIPA is not accountable,” Mr. Romaine said. “There really is no one overseeing LIPA at all, other than the state comptroller, and that’s only on audits.”

South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele has filed bills several times to make the LIPA board elected, but they’ve never become law.

Two years ago, Mr. Thiele’s bill was approved by the state Assembly but not the Senate. This year, it didn’t make it out of committee in the Assembly and wasn’t even proposed in the Senate.

“The primary opposition is twofold,” Mr. Thiele said. “First, the governor — and not just Gov. Cuomo, any governor — likes being able to control the LIPA board and they don’t want to give that up. And secondly, back in the day when they were supposed to be elected, the LIPA trustee districts were proposed to mirror the senate districts. I think there was the fear that these LIPA trustees would become the farm system for candidates for the senate in the future, so I think some people viewed them as potential political rivals in the future and they didn’t want to create that.”

Mr. Thiele said he still plans to resubmit the bill to make LIPA trustees elected.

“When LIPA was created in the mid-1980s, the trustees were supposed to be elected,” Mr. Thiele said. “But they kept postponing the election and finally, in 1995, Governor Pataki wanted them appointed and he got a bill approved to make them appointed.”

Thus, there has never been an elected board at LIPA, which officially took over from LILCO in 1998.

As for Mr. Fischer’s proposal, Mr. Thiele said, “From the legal aspect, I don’t see this having any chance of success. A court is going to look at the actions taken by the Legislature to make these positions appointed and I don’t see a court disturbing this. But as far as raising awareness of the need to have an elected board, I have to applaud them for highlighting this issue and bringing attention to it. However, I don’t think they will reach their goal through the courts; it will have to be through legislation.

“I didn’t intend to win,” Mr. Fischer said of his filing petitions. “I’m assaulting the castle. I know I’m going to get blown up, I know that, but I’m trying to fix a deep problem that will help our economy. If I can get these rates cut back and get honesty and integrity in the office there, we can get the rates knocked down.”

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who represents the East End, said he was a sponsor of the original LIPA legislation that called for an elected board, and he said he supports an elected board, assuming it has a chance of being approved.

Mr. LaValle also recounted how the original LIPA elections were postponed over and over again until the governor finally said he wanted appointed trustees.

“We said, OK, if that’s what you want,” he recalled.

He said they didn’t make the change in the elections law because the original LIPA law dealt with the public authorities law.

Mr. LaValle said the matter might be moot if a Monday column by New York Post columnist Fred Dicker is accurate. That column suggested the state is going to do away with LIPA altogether.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said he doesn’t know where that information came from, but that LIPA is considering “rebranding” and possibly changing its name once PSEG of New Jersey takes over operation of LIPA’s electric system. He said the writer may have been confused by this, hence the column.

“LIPA’s problems go beyond whether it has an elected board or an appointed one,” Mr. LaValle added. “They are very deep-rooted.”

He said if he were grading LIPA, he would give it a D.

LIPA chief operating officer Michael Hervey declined comment on Mr. Fischer’s petitions and lawsuit.