New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for an investigation Monday of power outages that came at the end of this weekend's oppressive heat, saying he no longer trusts utility Con Edison after it decided to turn off power to thousands of customers.
Citizens sit across the street from their apartment building on West 64th Street after losing power during a major blackout on July 13, 2019 in New York City. (File photo: VCG)
Around 30,000 customers in Brooklyn were taken off power Sunday, so the utility could make repairs and prevent a bigger outage, de Blasio had said earlier.
On Monday, he offered a blistering assessment of that decision.
"This should not have happened," he told reporters, "and we need to make sure it doesn't happen again."
De Blasio said the private company is "not accountable to the public in a way a public agency would be."
"Con Ed is very haughty about this," the mayor said. "They don't give real answers, and they don't feel they have to."
The company defended its decision, saying in a statement to The Associated Press that it was "necessary to prevent longer outages to the impacted customers that would have occurred as a result of additional equipment damage."
"We are completely focused on getting customers back in service, and we regret the distress they are under," spokesman Allan Drury wrote in an email.
De Blasio's remarks came as Con Ed was working to restore power to about 19,000 customers, many of them in southeast Brooklyn.
The utility said in an emailed statement that it was working to restore power to everyone by the afternoon.
At one point, less than 8,000 remained without power, mostly in Brooklyn, but a line of severe thunderstorms rolled through the area, downing some power lines and flooding streets. By 10 p.m. Monday, roughly 18,000 customers had no power, with most of the new outages affecting Queens.
Like much of the East Coast, New York City experienced temperatures in the high 90s over the weekend — and felt much hotter with the humidity. Temperatures were starting to fall Monday, and city emergency management officials warned of thunderstorms.
"It's still hot and people have a right to be frustrated. We're pushing Con Ed to get power back as fast as possible," De Blasio tweeted.
De Blasio said that New York City emergency management was adding personnel on the ground in southeast Brooklyn, including at nursing homes and adult care facilities, to respond to emergencies and keep people safe.
De Blasio told reporters the city still does not have answers in the wake of outages a week ago that crippled the heart of Manhattan, knocking out power businesses and residents for more than three hours along a 30-block stretch.
"I'm extremely disappointed with Con Ed," the mayor said. "They have been giving us consistently inconsistent information over these last days."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he deployed 200 state troopers, 100 generators and 50 light towers to Brooklyn, as well as personnel and command vehicles from the state Office of Emergency management. He urged New Yorkers to check on neighbors, especially the elderly.
"We have been through this situation with Con Ed time and again, and they should have been better prepared — period," Cuomo said in a statement. "This was not a natural disaster; there is no excuse for what has happened in Brooklyn."
Cuomo also said he directed the state Department of Public Service to widen its investigation into last week's blackout in Manhattan to include Sunday's outages in Brooklyn. Equipment failure, not heat, caused the roughly five-hour blackout July 13 that affected a 40-block stretch of Manhattan, including Times Square and Rockefeller Center.