Earlier story: Sweat and rage
A blackout affecting an estimated 100,000 people in Queens - which entered its fifth day Friday - is 10 times worse than the power company had previously reported, Con Edison said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking on his weekly radio show, said he was "annoyed" by the new estimate - 25,000 customers without power - because "we might have thrown more resources into the area." Bloomberg later made the "100,000 people" estimate at a news conference. The term "customer" can refer to more than one household, or even an entire apartment building.
"The sad thing is, this shouldn't have happened," Bloomberg said. "We don't know why, but the most important thing - make sure nobody dies or gets hurt and then help Con Ed to get it back up."
"And then we'll go and try to figure out why and point fingers and beat people over the head and all that sort of thing," added the mayor.
Con Edison said its revised number followed a block-by-block cable inspection in northwest Queens on Thursday night. It said previous estimates came from the number of customers who called to complain.
Similarly, Con Edison said Friday that 35,000 customers in Westchester County - not the 25,000 reported earlier - lost power after Tuesday's storm. About 6,000 were still out on Friday morning.
"They have no way of measuring whether or not there's power to your house" until workers make it to that location, Bloomberg said. "They cannot tell from their computers."
"Their estimates at the beginning were based on how many people called up and said, 'My power's not working.' ... You can question whether that's an intelligent way to do it," the mayor said.
The rhetoric was ratcheted up as other politicians jumped into the fray. Assemblyman Michael Gianaris of Astoria called for a "criminal investigation of Con Edison on the grounds of reckless endangerment."
Bloomberg said he was told the utility now hopes to fix most of the problems by the end of the weekend.
The blackouts started Monday evening. Two LaGuardia Airport terminals were without power Tuesday; the Rikers Island jail complex used backup generators. A number of subway problems around the city this week were believed to be heat or power related, including severe interruptions in Queens on Wednesday, when the temperature hit 100 degrees in some neighborhoods. By Friday, hundreds of Queens businesses remained idle and homeowners had no use of appliances and, sometimes, elevators.
Bloomberg said the city expected to restore traffic lights by the Friday afternoon rush-hour, with traffic agents posted at remaining intersections.
Uniformed officers were showing a "significant presence" and two burglary arrests were made on Thursday night at blacked-out homes, said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Ambulances and fire vehicles were cruising the streets to speed response times, and a firehouse was handing out water and dry ice to residents, said the mayor and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. The mayor said calls to 911 were down 40 percent because police were on the scene, where residents "can grab them."
The Human Resources Administration, the Red Cross, the Small Business Bureau and other agencies will provide assistance to the neighborhood through the weekend or for as long as the blackout continues, Bloomberg said.
People who lost food or had other damage were instructed to call 311 to find out how to get reimbursed.
Bloomberg, who visited the area on Thursday, demanded that the utility investigate and deliver a report on the cause within two weeks.
Earlier story: Sweat and rage
No answers in Queens blackout
BY MICHAEL WHITE, MICHAEL SAUL and ADAM NICHOLS
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Thousands of furious Queens residents spent their fourth day without power yesterday as Mayor Bloomberg visited the crisis-hit area - and Con Ed expected no immediate end to the blackout.
Officials at the utility remained stumped about what knocked out juice to one of New York's most densely populated neighborhoods. Workers doling out bags of ice told residents it could be Monday before they're reconnected.
"Heads need to roll," City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Queens) told reporters yesterday. "Con Ed has sent us back to the dark ages. People of this community want to storm Con Ed with ... pitchforks."
Con Ed estimated that 1,800 homes remained cut off across Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and Hunters Point last night.
Streetlights and traffic intersections were dead and usually vibrant main streets resembled ghost towns.
But community leaders put the number affected much higher.
"Maybe there's that many people with zero power," said Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). "Many, many more have enough power just to turn on a light bulb.
"[This affects] hundreds of thousands of people in western Queens."
Con Ed officials offered little in the way of hope yesterday.
"We have no timetable for when everyone in Queens should come back," said Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert.
That answer left customers frustrated and angry.
"You call them and they tell you nothing," said Elena Murphy, 25, who is nine months' pregnant and was carrying a sack of ice to her Steinway Ave. home yesterday.
"I can't keep any food in my home. I've thrown out $150 worth of groceries and I have to feed my daughter on dry food.
"I'm due to have my baby any day. I had to buy a new phone that runs on a battery so that I could call somebody if I go into labor. It is unbelievable."
"We've got to go out of town today," said mom-of-two Maria Dapontes-Dougherty, 48. "We can't live like this."
The blackout also has crippled local businesses.
"We've probably lost $25,000 in business in three days," said Gianni DellaPolla, 26, a baker at Gian & Piero Bakery on 30th Ave., Astoria.
"Everything like wedding cakes, eggs, creams, we had to throw all that out."
The power cut left 1,000 seniors stuck without water and electricity on Wednesday, said City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who alerted the Red Cross to the Berkley Towers complex in Woodside.
"This wasn't just an inconvenience," he said. "This was an extremely grave situation."
Bloomberg, who early yesterday said he had no plans to visit the area, later changed his mind and held an afternoon news conference in Astoria, demanding Con Ed file a report on what went wrong.
But he said meeting residents would only get in the way of efforts to restore power.
"I could drive the streets and shake some hands and talk, but I am neither a Con Ed repairman nor a police officer not a fire officer, and I have always believed that I want them doing their job and not taking their time shaking hands with the mayor."
With Rich O'Malley
Utility will pay for spoiled food
Folks in northwest Queens who were forced to throw away food spoiled in the midst of power outages that began Monday can file a claim for reimbursement through Con Ed.
Residential customers can apply for up to $350 in lost groceries, and business owners may claim a maximum of $7,000.
For claims up to $150, residential customers must provide Con Edison with an itemized list. Claims greater than $150 must be accompanied by a list and receipts, officials said.
Commercial customers must file all records of purchase.
Those seeking reimbursement should access claim forms on the Web at www.conedison.com, or by calling (800) 75-CONED.
Originally published on July 20, 2006