Tag Archives: National Grid

National Grid to install natural gas lines along Lefferts Boulevard

| amatua@queenscourier.com

File photo

National Grid’s efforts to modernize its gas system in Queens will affect drivers and residents on Lefferts Boulevard in the weeks ahead.

National Grid and its contractor, Network Infrastructure, have now begun work to install a new gas main along 84th Avenue between 115th Street and Lefferts Boulevard. Due to this construction, 84th Avenue between 115th and 116th streets will be closed to through traffic and on-street parking will be unavailable from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

It is part of the Queens Gas Reliability Project, a $100 million effort by National Grid scheduled to be completed in spring 2016. The construction will take between five and six weeks to complete.

“We are working closely with the local community to minimize the disruption and we thank them for their patience and cooperation during this complex construction project,” said Mike Ruiz, director of community and customer management at National Grid. “The Queens Gas Reliability Project is important to strengthening the network for our Queens customers and it’s a good example of our Connect 21 vision to modernize our energy delivery system and to help customers take more control of their energy use.”

New gas mains have already been installed in South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens.

National Grid will install more than 6 miles of gas mains through central and south Queens and once the installation is complete, crews will work in neighborhoods along the route, spanning from Rockaway Boulevard to Long Island Expressway, to upgrade the natural gas service in the local communities.

The Queens Gas Reliability Project is part of National Grid’s $1.3 billion investment focused on replacing aging gas mains; installing new mains and other facilities to accommodate customers requesting natural gas service; and ensuring that natural gas supplies can meet increasing customer demand.


Jackson Heights residents call National Grid a ‘bad neighbor’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Updated 5:20 p.m.

Residents on one Jackson Heights street are calling on National Grid to be a good neighbor and take care of “dangerous” holes left unattended for weeks after digging was started last month to work on gas pipe updates.

Councilman Daniel Dromm and residents on 80th Street gathered on the block Tuesday morning to speak out against holes created by the utility company that were left ignored for weeks.

The holes, which measure about 13 feet by 3 feet and go as deep as three to six feet, were dug by National Grid in April to start renovations on underground gas lines. However, residents said that in the beginning of May work just stopped and the holes were left uncovered and surrounded by barriers and cones, most of which fell into the holes.

“The damage they have done to this street makes you understand that National Grid is a bad neighbor. You don’t come into communities, dig up streets, leave piles of dirt and then leave the exposed pipes open to all types of foul play, to children falling into them, and then not respond to the community,” Dromm said. “We are here today to demand that National Grid minimally put plates over this, fix this work, and ensure the safety of the community is taken care of here.”

Dromm added that his office communicated with National Grid several times, but no fixes have been made. The councilman said he even left his personal number and never received a call back.

Some residents expressed concerns that they have seen children playing in the holes, and others said the exposed gas lines have been letting out gaseous odors.

A Courier reporter on the scene also smelled gas odors coming out of one of the holes.

“The unfinished repair work initiated by National Grid on April 17, 2015, has not only resulted in a trip and fall hazard to pedestrians but has made us nervous because we were told originally the construction was to remedy a gas leak,” said Ricky Castro, co-op board vice president. “Despite many complaints we have received no answers about why we smell gas and if it’s safe.”

Castro added that last weekend when it rained, water filled the holes and caused the basement of one of the apartment buildings, which has storage units belonging to residents, to flood.

According to residents, National Grid workers showed up Tuesday morning but no work was being done. They also added that they have called the FDNY, Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection and were told National Grid is responsible for the holes.

A spokeswoman for National Grid said the company is committed  to ensuring the safety of the public.

She added the company is using industry-approved methods to secure the work site and have the appropriate work permits. Also, National Grid is conducting daily surveys of the area to maintain safety until the repairs are completed.

“We apologize for the inconvenience but the work is necessary to ensure a safe and reliable gas system for the community,” the spokeswoman said. “Last month during an investigation we detected a gas leak and made arrangements to schedule the repairs, working around parking restrictions on the block.”

She added the gas lines had been replaced on the street and now each home in three buildings has to be transferred to the new service lines. The company is working to notify everyone in the buildings.

Crews are expected to be on site starting Wednesday through the end of the week to complete the work and have the holes filled.

Residents are urged to call 911 or National Grid’s Gas emergency number, 718-643-4050.


Goldfeder urging National Grid for plant site usage as new hope arises in fight for ferry service

| slicata@queenscourier.com

File photo

As Mayor de Blasio announced plans for a resumption of ferry service to the Rockaways, local elected officials and community advocates immediately took up the call for community development projects that they say would go hand-in-hand with a ferry — including a proposal for a new parking lot on the site of an old gas plant.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has asked National Grid President Dean Seavers to review and consider community suggestions for uses of a former manufactured gas plant the utility company owns at the corner of Beach 108th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Among the possible uses of the site, could be for a parking lot for the nearby ferry terminal.

“Rarely do we have the opportunity to redevelop such a large site with so much potential to revitalize the community. The Rockaway Park MGP site is a ‘blank slate’ on which we can write the future economic development of the Rockaway Peninsula,” Goldfeder said. “I urge National Grid to consider the community’s suggestions for the site as we work together to put an end to the cycle of blight and decay that Rockaway families have endured for too long.”

Following Superstorm Sandy, Goldfeder secured an agreement from National Grid to allow hundreds of daily Rockaway Ferry commuters to park at the site for what was temporary ferry service. He and residents of Rockaway who are looking for a restoration of the ferry are hoping that the property can once again be used for parking once ferry service resumes.

De Blasio unveiled his proposal for a citywide ferry service during his State of the City speech on Feb. 3.

“Today, we announce that we’re launching a new citywide ferry service to be open for business in 2017,” he said. “New ferry rides will be priced the same as a MetroCard fare, so ferries will be as affordable to everyday New Yorkers as our subways and buses. … so residents of the Rockaways and Red Hook and Soundview will now be closer to the opportunities they need.”

Other politicians on the peninsula talked about how important this restoration would be to the local economy.

“Rockaway has great year-round potential, but its major economic strength is its summer season, which is a time when connecting the peninsula with the remainder of the city would maximize the benefit for all individuals within the city limits,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo. “Right now, the peninsula’s only viable transportation option is a water, ferry service.”

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Having the large National Grid site as an option for parking now comes into play for ferry riders.

“We appreciate that National Grid made their property available for Rockaway residents to park their vehicles to utilize the ferry service,” said Rockaway Ferry advocate Danny Ruscillo. “Our hope is that when National Grid no longer has a need for this property, they take into consideration the community’s interests, including ferry transportation and parking, when finding the best use for the site.”

The former Rockaway Park Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) occupied the 9-acre lot between Beach Channel Drive and the Rockaway Freeway at Beach 108th Street. From the 1880s until the mid-1950s, the site housed gas production and storage facilities operated by the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO). In 1998, the ownership of the site transferred to KeySpan in a merger between LILCO and Brooklyn Union Gas Company.

In a 2006 decision, the state Department of Environmental Conservation ordered KeySpan to begin remedial action to remove toxic waste and contaminated ground soil from the site. National Grid took over cleanup at the site when it bought out KeySpan in 2008 and they are now in their final steps of their efforts.

Goldfeder did not only suggest for the site to be used as a parking lot. He is mainly asking that when National Grid has no more use for the site, they take into consideration what the Rockaway community wants.

“Our families have seen so much destruction in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” he noted.

“Allowing the community to be a large part of the process in determining the future of the MGP site will send a strong message that the community is not only building back stronger but that our residents have a voice for the future.”



New natural gas lines coming to central and southern Queens

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

A $100 million project to make natural gas a more reliable source of energy in Queens is underway beginning this week, and the project will include the construction of six miles of new gas mains.

National Grid is responsible for the construction and said the Queens Gas Reliability Project is aimed at improving safety and reliability and supporting energy needs of the local community.

“As we look to the future and increased demand for natural gas, the Queens Reliability Project is a perfect example of National Grid’s commitment to modernizing our network and helping customers take control of their energy use,” said Mike Ruiz, director of community and customer management at National Grid. “By strengthening the network we can support increased customer demand and give customers a choice to take advantage of new technologies and renewable energy sources.”

National Grid and its contracting company, Network Infrastructure, will install more than six miles of new gas mains through central Queens from Rockaway Boulevard to just north of the Long Island Expressway, which they say will provide enough natural gas to meet the growing energy needs of customers.

Following the installation, crews will be working in neighborhoods along the route to upgrade the natural gas service in the local communities. All of the work is expected to be finished by the spring of 2016.

The new project is part of National Grid’s $1.3 billion effort to modernize the natural gas system in New York State over the next two years. They will be focusing on replacing aging mains to enhance the safety and integrity of their system, and installing new mains and other facilities to accommodate their growing number of customers.

National Grid said the Queens project will ensure a reliable supply of environmentally friendly natural gas to support New York City’s energy efficiency and sustainability goals.

Crews will be setting short-term goals to minimize disruption as much as possible but, as some of the work will be going on in the streets, National Grid warned motorists and pedestrians to be cautious around work sites.



One injured in gas explosion at South Ozone Park home

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Updated Tuesday, Dec. 2, 9:14 a.m.

A stove mishap on Thanksgiving Day caused a gas explosion at a South Ozone Park home and left one person injured, fire officials said.

The 107-55 108th St. two-story dwelling exploded about 1:40 p.m. Thursday, according to the FDNY.

A man who suffered from burns, according to published reports, was taken to the hospital in serious, but non-life-threatening condition.

The location of the explosion was an illegally renovated apartment in the back of the house, according to fire and National Grid officials. An investigation showed that the resident was trying to light the stove when the incident happened.


Bones discovered in Richmond Hill  

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Authorities are investigating unidentified bones that were unearthed by a utility worker in Richmond Hill Tuesday morning.

A National Grid subcontractor was digging a trench at a site on 108th Street near Jamaica Avenue at about 11:10 a.m. when he found five pieces of bone that appear to be human, cops said.

Police were called and the medical examiner is investigating.


Manhole fires and power outage hit Woodhaven area

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

An electric blowout left 1,218 residents without power in the Woodhaven area for an hour Thursday morning, according to a Con Edison spokesman.

Three manholes spewed out flames and power lines above ground also burst into flames at about 6:15 a.m., according to residents on 95th Avenue and 96th Street where the event occurred.

“I woke up to a popping noise and I saw tons of black smoke coming out of the [manhole] covers,” Irene Kesluk said. “The power lines were on fire and there was that acrid smell in the air.”

Kesluk said that her lights flickered during the outage but power was quickly restored. Con Edison responded to the flames with cleanup crews. The crews spent the afternoon cleaning out the black stained manholes.

According to a Con Edison worker on site, the electric blowout was caused by an over use of electricity by residents in Woodhaven.

National Grid and Verizon were also on site but there were no reports of gas lines being affected, but Kesluk said her landline was currently not working.

Nearby there was a smaller power outage that affected three Con Edison customers, according to the electric company’s spokesman. They still do no have power but they expect the area to be restored later in the afternoon.

“Con Ed and the fire department responded very quickly,” Kesluk said as she watched clean up crews hose out one of the burnt manholes.



Lawsuit filed alleging negligence by power companies during Breezy Point blaze

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP

The Breezy Point blaze during Sandy was “so massive, it looked like a forest fire,” said Billy Heeran, a Rockaway resident.

Heeran owned what has been called an “iconic restaurant” in the neighborhood, the Harbor Light Pub. The family business had stayed afloat for over 30 years, but it was reduced to ashes the night of the storm.

Dylan Smith, who died surfing less than two months after rescuing people during Sandy, worked for Heeran for 10 years and called him that night to tell him the pub was on fire.

“He said, ‘Billy, there’s fire blowing out of the windows,’” Heeran said. “I knew it was bad. There was no fire department getting in there.”

Following the FDNY confirmation that the fire was electrical, people who lost homes and businesses decided to fight back. A notice of claim was filed in January, as previously reported by The Courier, that residents were seeking damage compensation from power companies LIPA and National Grid.

The negligence claim against the power companies was officially filed Tuesday, July 3. It alleges that the two had a duty to provide for and ensure the safety of the property of those who are supplied its electricity, such as Breezy Point, and was negligent in failing to de-energize the area prior to the storm.

In the event of extreme flooding, power companies are advised to shut off electricity in vulnerable areas in order to prevent incidents such as electrical fires. The claim states that prior to Sandy, both LIPA and National Grid were aware of the necessity to do as such.

Law firms Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP and Godosky & Gentile, P.C. are representing 120 people all seeking a different amount of compensation based on damages.

“It’s a tremendous burden on these folks,” said attorney Keith Sullivan, born and raised in the Rockaways. “They don’t have the money to rebuild.”

Additionally, he said, the fire victims will have to rebuild according to new building codes and FEMA requirements.

LIPA issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, saying the “effort to place fault for this tragedy with the utility is misplaced,” but the company is “sensitive to those families who suffered tragic losses from Sandy.”
Sullivan countered the statement, saying it is “completely ridiculous.”

“That implies these people are making this up,” he said. “There’s nothing faint about their losses.”

A National Grid spokesperson said the group has not yet received the lawsuit, but “National Grid’s actions during Sandy were reasonable and appropriate” and they “don’t believe that these claims have merit.”
Heeran, also a local firefighter, said once he received the fire marshal’s report, he thought, “There’s negligence here.”

“If the power was shut down, the fire would have never happened. We would have been flooded, but would have been back up in business within 10 days,” he said.



National Grid makes recovery announcements in Breezy Point

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Breezy Point is getting back on the grid.

As part of a cooperative effort with Habitat for Humanity, National Grid made a slew of recovery announcements on Friday, May 17 to benefit the neighborhood.

Company president Ken Daly announced the supplier has replaced 14 miles worth of gas lines in Breezy Point and given grants to three local businesses to continue rebuilding.

“This is not just about National Grid, and it’s not just about our employees,” Daly said. “It’s really about our extended family.”

One of the grant recipients was Kathy Dady, a 24-year Breezy Point resident who runs Breezy Point Lumber on West Market Street.

Although the lumber yard was damaged by the storm, Dady said the staff still took in orders for when deliveries could be made. The yard reopened three weeks after Sandy and has since contributed to many rebuilt homes. Dady expects to stay involved in the process.

“Everybody relies on the lumberyard,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be [supplying lumber] for the houses that were burnt.”

Habitat for Humanity of Westchester County has worked in Breezy since the storm hit. Executive director James Killoran said while more than six months have passed, there is still a long road ahead for the community.

Killoran added that the Breezy Point community has the chance to become better, greener and more prepared for future storms.

“We’re not ready and we have to do something better,” he said. “Disaster doesn’t take a vacation, and neither do we.”



15 new schools to open in Queens next fall

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

NYC Mayor's Office Flickr/Photo by Edward Reed

Education is expanding throughout the borough with 15 new schools opening this fall, announced Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“With our new schools and school leaders, we’ll continue to provide our children with the opportunities they deserve,” said Bloomberg.

Of the 15, two will be elementary schools, six middle schools, one school housing grades 6 through 12, three high schools, one transfer high school and two career technical and educational (CTE) high schools.

One CTE school opening in Long Island City, CTE Energy Tech High School, is partnering with LaGuardia Community College, Con Edison and National Grid to give students unique internship and apprenticeship opportunities outside of the classroom, as well as a rigorous curriculum, all to prepare them for a future in the booming energy industry.

“We want to give students opportunities [to participate] in hands-on problem solving, getting to know the industry, getting out and seeing what the work feels like,” said Hope Barter, Energy Tech’s principal-to-be.

The new CTE school will share a building with I.S. 204, and despite some opposition from parents on the co-location, Barter thinks the tech students’ undertaking can only benefit the neighborhood and the city.

“Having another engineering program is an incredible opportunity for our teens and for the community,” she said.
Energy Tech and other city CTE schools, all grades 9 through 14, will give students not only high school diplomas but also associates degrees.

“As a product of the New York City public school system, I know firsthand the importance of a solid technical education,” said Ken Daly, president of National Grid New York. “Our partnership with the Energy Tech High School supports National Grid’s ‘Engineering Our Future’ initiative to build a qualified and skilled workforce.”

Mainstream schools are also spreading across the city, including the new Hunters Point Community Middle School, where students will be given the opportunity to participate in interest-based programs as well as work through an accelerated curriculum.

“Everything is going to be very engaging,” said Sarah Goodman, the middle school’s principal. “I think we’re going to provide a combination of things that are really important – a strong set of foundational skills, and a curriculum in classrooms and advisories that’s going to expose kids to ideas, ways of thinking and possible career paths.”

Community leadership and organizational skills will also be one of the school’s focuses under Goodman’s leadership.

“The range of schools that’s opening is going to give students such a range of programs to choose from,” said Barter.“We’re all doing something different, and it’s always exciting to give students choices and options.”

Citywide, 78 new schools will serve nearly 10,000 students. Once the schools reach full capacity, that number will too grow to 32,000 students.

“The schools announced today will help us continue to ensure that all students – no matter their zip code – have access to high-quality education in New York City,” said Walcott.


New schools opening in Queens next fall

Elementary Schools:

  • Elm Tree Elementary School
  • East Elmhurst Community School

Middle Schools:

  • Corona Arts and Sciences Academy
  • Hawtree Creek Middle School
  • The Emerson School
  • Queens United Middle School
  • Hunters Point Community Middle School
  • Middle Village Prep Charter School

Middle/High School:

  • The Riverview School (District 75)

High Schools:

  • International High School for Health Sciences
  • Veritas Academy
  • Queens High School for Language Studies

High Schools/ CTE:

  • Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights
  • Energy Tech High School

Transfer High School:

  • Voyages Prep – South Queens




Queens chocolate company gets $250K grant for Sandy recovery

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence Cullen

Normally, the staff of Madelaine Chocolate makes Valentine’s Day sweet for countless couples.

But this year, because of Sandy, their holiday was sweetened thanks to National Grid.

The gas company presented owners at Madelaine with a check for $250,000 on Tuesday, February 12 to help the confectioners continue their recovery. The money will go toward getting at least one leg of the Madelaine factory producing chocolate again, said co-owner Jorge Farber, and the staff back to work for Halloween candy.

“It’s a beginning for a long, long road that is ahead of us,” Farber said. “This grant from National Grid is the first substantial outside grant and resources we have received. It’s a very concrete first step because it helps us rebuild one of our 14 molding lines that produce chocolate.”

This is the first of several grants National Grid will give to companies in its floodzone that suffered severe damage from the storm. National Grid president Ken Daly said the power company has a $30 million fund, with roughly 100 companies applied. The amount of grant money will vary based on the company, he added.

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said the grant would be a boost to Madelaine and the workers who live nearby.

“It’s going to help re-employ some of the workers who have been out of work since October, and probably will be out of work through the summer,” Friedman said. “And it’s going to help the community of Rockaway because most of their workers come from the local area.”

Madelaine, the largest Queens small business with about 450 employees, was the first on National Grid’s list, Daly said, because of the long working relationship between the two. The executives at National Grid are committed to getting Madelaine back and making candy as soon as possible.

“[For] many, many years, they’ve been supporting us as a company,” Daly said. “Today, it’s really our opportunity to return that support and help them get back up and running.”

Farber said the factory had already lost two seasons — Valentine’s Day and Easter — of candy production because of the damage from the storm. The combined cost of the damage and cost of doing business is still unestimated, he said.

The first of the eight kitchens, however, has been almost restored. That kitchen had a staff of 42 and produced about 46,000 of 100,000 pounds of chocolate per day.

The grant from National Grid was the first step in getting the staff back to work, as the company awaits potential loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. As more loans and donations come in, the staff can begin making chocolate goodies for distribution.

“We cannot lose another season,” Farber said. “We need to be back by Halloween.”




Rising Stars of Queens honored

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


The stars aligned last week when The Queens Courier honored 40 of the borough’s budding young professionals. “It’s awesome to be honored, and it’s humbling to be among these people,” said Eric Abrams, 26, digital media and membership associate for the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “I feel like I’m on my way up.”

Abrams — recognized for his work for the Chamber, including his part in securing a $100,000 grant to develop a mobile phone app for Queens tourism — shared the limelight with several other “Rising Stars” honored for exemplifying outstanding leadership skills in their chosen fields and communities.


Presented by Metropolitan Hospitality, the fifth annual “40 under 40” awards and networking event drew over 500 people and raised $2,500 in charity raffle funds collected to benefit the Hank Auffarth Family Center of The Child Center of NY and Morgan Center, a pre-school for kids with cancer.

“This makes me proud of my staff, the company and proud to work in Queens,” said Seth Taylor, 33, executive director at the 82nd Street Partnership. “It makes me think back to the work I’ve done and it reminds me of all the work to be done.”

On January 31, at the Caesars Club in Citi Field, event attendees networked with top professionals and mingled with representatives from leading businesses in the area, including this year’s event sponsors National Grid, TD Bank, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care & Rehabilitation, Delta Airlines, Queens Library, Con Edison, Flushing Bank, Council for Airport Opportunity, Queens County Savings Bank, Time Warner Business Class, Samuel Field Y, Sandwire, Crystal Window & Door Systems, Investors Bank and Ehren Joseph Studios.

Danielle Monaro, a co-host on Z100’s Elvis Duran & The Morning Show, received the “Star of Stars” award and was the night’s honorary emcee.

“I went to St. John’s University, so I feel like I grew up in Queens,” she said. “It’s just really nice to see how diverse the crowd is, how everybody comes together and supports each other. It really does mean a lot that I was chosen to be here. “


Monaro, a New Jersey resident, said she started her gig as a radio personality at St. John’s, where she did theater and WSJU Radio before graduating in 1995.

She helped honor fellow award recipients, including “Mentor of the Year” Bud Harrelson, a 1969 New York Mets World Series champion.

Also honored this year for their community work were Joseph Amodeo, development director for Quality Services for the Autism Community; Eric D. Abrams Digital Media & Membership Associate Queens Chamber of Commerce; Gerdie Rene Gordon, member, Cambria Heights Development Corporation; Seth Taylor, Executive Director, 82nd Street Partnership; Anahit Azatyan, manager of OKG Jewelry; Anokye Blissett, attorney at Law Firm of Russo & Blissett; Ricky Brava, senior partner at Apollo Financial Group; Ricardi Calixte, director of neighborhood economic development for the Queens Economic Development Corporation; Jennifer Colletti-Membreño, assistant director of development at Samuel Field Y; Elizabeth Culp, assistant vice president and branch manager at Roslyn Savings Bank; Paisley Demby, business services director at Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at LaGuardia Community College; Josh Fatoullah, president and founder of JR Wealth Advisors; Dr. Peter Feibish, orthodontist at Dynamic Dental; Christian Goode, CFO and SVP of Resorts World NY; Gerdie Rene Gordon, member of Cambria Heights Development Corporation; Tracie Hall, vice president of strategy and organizational development of library services at Queens Library; Matthew Jahrsdoerfer, audit principal at Grassi & Co; Isabella Leung, human resource manager at Crystal Window & Door Systems; Jennifer Matthews, NTC marketing and events for USTA National Tennis Center; Maria Messados, principal/insurance broker for Queens Medallion; Ann O’Connor, cultural collaborator at Zoescope Studio; Tony Rappaport, licensed sales associate at Greenthal Property Sales & Management; Michael Ratner, partner at Abrams, Fensterman; Jeffrey Reich-Hale, director of sales and marketing at Wyndham Garden LIC; June Reid, department manager at Delta Air Lines at JFK International Airport; Jeff Yanni, general manager at Delta Air Lines at LaGuardia Airport; Elias Roman, CEO and co-founder of Songza Media, Inc; Rick Rosa, executive vice president and managing director at Douglas Elliman; Frank T. Santoro, counsel at Farrell Fritz, P.C; Suzanne Shusteris, manager at TD Bank; Aravella Simotas, assemblymember of District 36; Kevin Skelly, assistant general manager at Clearview Golf Corp.; Silvia Tejeda, licensed real estate broker at Rapid Realty Astoria Inc.; Ebony Young, executive director of Long Island City YMCA; Jason Hilliard, executive director for Congressmember Gregory Meeks; Frank Russo III, manager of Russo’s on the Bay; Abbi Leman, communications director at CUNY School of Law; Andrew Barnes, manager at National Grid; Wafa Abboud, founder and CEO of Human First, Inc.; Chris Lynch, director of operations of Parker’s Medical Transportation Division for Lakeville Ambulette Transportation; and Jeffrey DeShields, mortgage development officer and team leader for Sovereign Bank. “I feel blessed. You can’t ask for anything better,” said DeShields, 39.

Creative Group, LLC and Delta Airlines provided the raffled-off Cancun trip, which included four nights and five days at the Ocean Spa Resort or the Laguna Suites and two round trip airfare tickets.
Broadway tickets, an HD TV, two Nets tickets to the TGI Suite at the Barclays Center and many gift certificates were also given away by exhibitors.

Guests also snapped pictures in a free photo booth sponsored by Investors Bank and snacked on free Nathan’s hotdogs and pretzels.

Danielle Monaro, co-host of the Z100 Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, talks about The Queens Courier Rising Stars event on her radio show. 



Moreland Commission recommends LIPA changes based on Sandy response

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

It might be lights out for LIPA in its current form.

The Moreland Commission, established to examine response from utility companies after Sandy, has offered Governor Andrew Cuomo three options to reshape the power company after it was lambasted for poor response times and mismanagement after the storm.

The first is to let the power company go private under a single operator — effectively letting the state regulate the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), as opposed to regulating itself as it does now.

Other options include streamlining LIPA by allowing the company to manage its day-to-day operations — currently handled by National Grid. The last suggestion is to replace LIPA with the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

The tandem of LIPA and National Grid did not work during the storm, according to the commission’s interim report, and had fallen victim to mismanagement and poor investment in infrastructure and had let customers down.

Cuomo, who has promised to keep utility companies accountable, said whatever plan the commission ultimately suggests, it should be adopted statewide. He reiterated that utility companies were not locked into servicing the area forever and would be responsible for any wrongdoings.

“Nobody said that any of these utility companies had a franchise for life; they don’t,” Cuomo said after meeting the commission. “I mean what business do you have today in this state and this country where you have the business for life, regardless of your performance?”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who represents the bulk of Rockaway, said LIPA was mismanaged after the storm. Relaying information to residents was not the only problem, he said, but communication within the agency was poor.

“It seemed like there was just a general lack of communication not only within the community but within their own agency,” he said.
Goldfeder said he was open to any proposals to changing how utility companies are managed to ensure they are held accountable to customers.

“There’s no question that LIPA failed the residents of Rockaway during the recent storm,” he said. “I’m open to discussing any and all changes to make sure that the utility companies are well managed and reliable to the customers who need it.”





Forums focus on frustrations after Sandy

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes


Nearly a month after Superstorm Sandy tore through south Queens, tens of thousands of residents are still struggling to restore their lives.

Councilmember James Sanders and Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder held separate forums with area residents, featuring representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), Con Edison and National Grid, seeking answers as to when their towns would be able to get back on their feet.

“I want firm dates,” said Sanders before his meeting at Public School 104. “I want to know when we will be made whole. I want to know when we’ll be back.”

As of the meeting, held on Tuesday, November 20, more than 15,000 people were still without power, according to LIPA.

LIPA representative Tom Smith stressed that utility workers have been in the area around the clock, working to repair electrical grids to get power back up and running. But the problem lies with the fact that many electrical grids were completely submerged under water during the storm, and making sure they are completely repaired has become a safety concern.

“We recognize it’s a bad situation,” said Smith. “But we’re not looking to exacerbate it by creating a fire hazard in your home.”

That same Tuesday night, Goldfeder, along with State Senator Joseph Addabbo, held their own forum at P.S. 146 in Howard Beach, where residents from the neighborhood and Broad Channel were vocal about some of the problems they still faced.

Many were irate, often yelling about response times, or walking out after hearing an unsatisfactory answer from officials.

“If I wasn’t the one standing in the front of the room,” Goldfeder said, “I would have been screaming just as loud because I’m equally as frustrated with the way things have gone over the last three weeks. I think what happened, people got a lot of answers, but not necessarily the answers they wanted or liked.”

Gary Robertson said his two homes in Hamilton Beach had lost power and he was forced to use generators to keep things running. He hired a licensed electrician to repair the homes, but was still awaiting Con Ed to come and install a new meter in one.

Robertson is most upset that he was told he would not receive reimbursement for the gallons of gas he poured into his generator, because, he said, he was told the outages were storm-related and not a direct outage by Con Ed.

“You spend all this money on everything else, you can’t get any answers,” he said. “I got answers basically from one representative that I saw and an electrician that I saw on my block.”

Another big concern for residents is with FEMA’s response time and communication.

Far Rockaway homeowner Cadim Ally has been working since the storm to repair the extensive damages to his properties – while at the same time cutting his losses.

Ally lives in one home in the area and rents out another. Both received significant water damage: Ally’s basement flooded and 13 inches of water rose above his first floor. Both houses were evaluated by FEMA.

“[My renter] had no home insurance, so they gave him a check for $9,500. He took the money, he’s gone,” said Ally.

When FEMA assessed the damages to his own home, because he is a homeowner, he was told to go through the Small Business Association to apply for loans. He did so, filling out all of the necessary paperwork, and after 10 days finally received an inspection. A loan officer will now re-evaluate Ally’s situation, and will either approve or decline his loan request. If he is denied, he will have to go back to FEMA and start his process over again.

“I’m actually sitting around every day, just waiting to hear. I don’t know what’s going on,” said Ally. “I’m filling out every piece of paperwork. I’m at a standstill.”

The need for a FEMA station in Howard Beach – and not just Broad Channel, where some cannot travel – was something Addabbo said came out of the P.S. 146 meeting. As a result, he and his colleagues are working to get an accessible FEMA center in the neighborhood.

“We got a commitment from FEMA, [we’re] just figuring out days and places,” said Addabbo.

Power is slowly being restored to the disaster areas, and residents are still doing the best they can do return to normalcy.

“We survived the storm. This was that 100-year storm,” said Sanders. “But can we do more? God willing, we can.”

Lawsuit against LIPA to be filed Tuesday

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A class action lawsuit against the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and National Grid, which manages LIPA’s grid, is expected to be filed Tuesday, claiming breach of contract, gross negligence and fraud for the utility’s response to Sandy-related outages, according to multiple reports.

Two Nassau county customers have already joined the lawsuit, reported CBS New York.

“We’re bringing a class action because I believe somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million people have been one way or another damaged by the ineptitude of this organization,” attorney Ken Mollins told CBS.

Critics say LIPA, which serve customers in Long Island as well as Queens, has responded slowly to the thousands that lost power due to Superstorm Sandy.

As of Tuesday, 14,000 LIPA customers outside of flood areas and 39,000 within, including 26,600 in the Rockaway Peninsula, are still without power.

Customers are not the only ones mad at local utility companies.

On Monday, Governor Cuomo said he wanted to launch an investigation of them, and that he believes they were “unprepared “ and “non-communicative” in their response to the storm.

In a speech this morning to the Association for a Better New York, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that “we need to strengthen our energy structure.”

Along with improving protocol, erecting structures around power plants and substations, and upgrading infrastructure, Quinn suggested that in neighborhoods prone to heavy winds, overhead power lines should be buried underground.