Bay Ridge residents received a wake-up call — literally — on Sunday that would cause most people to get up on the wrong side of their bed: Con Ed was begging people to use less power in the midst of the summer’s second prolonged heat wave.
“Con Ed woke me up at six in the morning,” said Frank Rand, who was asleep in his well-air-conditioned home at 69th Street on Shore Road when he got the “robo call.” “I wanted to sleep until 10.”
Rand was one of the many Ridgites who answered that early morning call hours after an overnight power failure affected more than 2,000 customers in nearby neighborhoods.
Rand’s power never failed that night, but he and others saw the phone call request as further evidence of the power grid’s fragile state whenever it is overly taxed.
Joseph Paladi, who lives at 88th Street and Colonial Road, was at home when a patrol car from the 68th Precinct broadcast an alert over its speaker system.
“They were circling around and telling us, ‘Be careful, the power is going below voltage,’” said Paladi, who promptly turned off his air conditioner and TV at their request, despite temperatures in the high 90s on the fourth day the heat wave.
Complying was fine by Paladi, but a crisis had already occurred for a many Brooklynites when two circuits went out on Saturday evening at around 11 pm.
According to Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert, the grid is designed with redundancies in order to handle a sudden need for extra energy in a heat wave, but if more than two circuits burn out, someone’s lights will dim.
Twelve of Con Ed’s feeders in Brooklyn are in Bay Ridge, making the neighborhood a major hub for the company.
Anne Dalton, spokesperson for the state Public Service Commission, which monitors utility services, said it’s fine for Con Ed to ask its customers to use less power.
“It’s typical to make those kinds of requests to put less pressure on the system,” Dalton said, but added that Con Ed will still need to file a report so the agency can examine what might have been done differently.
When George Skoufis, owner of the A&S Deli on Fifth Avenue, got the call from Con Ed — at 8 am and again an hour later — he turned off some lights in his store, but kept on his air conditioner. A power outage would have been devastating, he said.
“I have fresh meat and frozen stuff, it would be disaster,” he said.
But for critics of Con Ed, such as Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), the power failure and request for customers to use less energy added fuel to criticism that Con Ed can’t handle peak energy periods, such as during the major power failure in Boerum Hill in June, during the first heat wave of the summer.
“These regular problems we’ve had with Con Ed make me wonder why my fellow New Yorkers and I continue to pay more and more money for such mediocre service,” Gentile said.
For waitress Cathy Sterner, the latest Con Ed failure struck her like a lightning bolt.
“It’s one of those ‘Uh oh’ moments,” Sterner said. “It’s a guarantee that Con Ed is going screw up again.”