Sandra Boyle, a Dublin-born mother of two, filed suit against Con Edison Monday charging the company with gross negligence for failing to fix power outages that left an estimated 100,000 people in the areas of Astoria, Sunnyside and Woodside without electricity for up to a week.
The power cut, which occurred last Tuesday evening, left Boyle, her husband and two children with no electricity in their apartment in Sunnyside. Her power returned, almost a week later, at four o’clock yesterday morning.
“I had my first hot shower in a week,” Boyle said, speaking at a press conference held yesterday in the downtown office of her lawyer, Brian O’Dwyer, Accompanying Boyle was her daughter Saoirse, who stood by her side and her 10-month-old son Edward who sat on her lap and reached for the microphones on the table as she spoke.
Boyle, who is deputy director at the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Woodside, will seek unspecified damages based on Con Ed’s alleged failure to implement any of 13 actions that New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issued in 2000 to prevent future power outages in the aftermath of a blackout in Washington Heights and Inwood in the summer of 1999.
“I was totally out of power; my cell phone wouldn’t even work in my apartment,” Boyle said.
“When my daughter got sick on Thursday and ran a temperature of 102 degrees, I was alone in the house for an hour with no one to call. I was really scared. I didn’t know what to do. All I wanted to do was call the doctor and I couldn’t.”
Boyle was eventually able to call the doctor from the street outside her apartment after a neighbor offered to watch her children.
“These two are my priority, they are who I need to look after and I was not able to do that this week,” she said.
“I lost hundreds of dollars worth of food in my fridge. I’m about of pocket for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for my kids every day and I couldn’t do that this week. I am angry at Con Edison, in this day and age it’s totally unacceptable. This is not a Third World country we’re living in.”
O’Dwyer, the son of a former city council president and the nephew of a former mayor, said $350, the maximum compensation offered by Con Ed per household for food spoilage, did not take into account the emotional impact of the power outage on Queens residents. Commercial customers are eligible for compensation of up to $7,000, provided that they can provide receipts.
“We expect thousands to come forward,” he told the press conference.
“Since the news came out yesterday, my office has been flooded with calls. I expect there are thousands of people like Sandra who were put out by Con Ed. I wouldn’t buy any Con Ed shares, that’s for sure,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Con Ed spokesperson Chris Olert said the company would not comment on the case at this time, adding that they had worked to address Spitzer’s recommendations since 2000.
“We’ve spent billions addressing those issues, reinforcing the system and replacing equipment,” Olert said.
“We spent more than a billion getting the system ready for this summer. What happened in Northwestern Queens was not a power failure, it was an equipment failure. There was plenty of electricity there,” he added.
In a statement released Sunday, Spitzer criticized Con Ed’s response to the report his office issued in 2000.
“It is clear that Con Ed did not heed the warnings from the earlier blackout, and that the PSC [Public Service Commission’s] oversight of the utility has been wholly inadequate,” according to Spitzer.
In contrast, Mayor Michael Bloomberg drew some criticism at a press conference in Astoria last Sunday, when he praised Con Ed workers, many of whom who have been working long and late hours as they attempted to restore power to Queens households.
“If you really want to do something, just walk up to a Con Ed worker and say: ‘Thanks. We appreciate everything that you’re doing,'” he said.
When asked if she agreed with Mayor Bloomberg’s response, Boyle replied: “Absolutely not. What have Con Ed done for me done for me in the last week? Nobody knocked on my door to see if I was OK.”