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Brown alert! Con Ed cuts power

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The sun came out after last Wednesday’s storm, but things were still dim for some people living and working in Greenpoint and other parts of North Brooklyn. Con Edison instituted a brownout in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Clinton Hill, and part of Bedford-Stuyvesant, reducing voltage by 5 percent after heat and humidity burned out three feeder cables.

The brownout did not cause customers to lose power, but the diminished service frustrated many.

“I started to think I needed a new fridge because the milk went bad,” said Greenpoint resident Celia Montez. “And I don’t have a new TV or anything, but it took a while for it to build up the juice. It was like the picture was slow to come on the screen.”

Con Ed called some customers, asking them to stop using air conditioners and other high-energy appliances during the brownout. But Montez said she had no idea what was happening.

The lights flickered that day at Maria’s Coffee Shop, a bakery and diner on Manhattan Avenue and Meserole Street, according to owner Maria Savino. Savino said she tries to keep the doors open and use fans instead of the air conditioner, but that it can be bad for business.

“People are always coming in here saying, ‘Maria, Maria, it’s too hot in here!’” she said. “Con Ed’s excuse is that it’s summertime. Because it’s summer, I’m not supposed to turn the air on.”

Many of the 87,000 residents in the brownout area did not notice a difference and Community Board 1 said it did not hear any complaints. But after the Queens blackout last year, when more than 100,000 people lost power for 10 days, some North Brooklynites wonder if their rapidly growing community could be next.

“People panicked when that happened,” said Dorothy Stepnowska, a 27-year-old dental office assistant living in Greenpoint. “But that doesn’t stop some people [from] using $500 a month worth of electricity.”

Con Ed spokesman Robert McGee said there is no reason that the company would be unable to keep up with the community’s power demands in the future, but added: “Whenever you have extreme heat and humidity there’s always a chance there could be some service reduction.”

Updated 4:31 pm, July 9, 2018
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