WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Con Edison offered an apology Thursday to its thousands of Westchester County customers still in the dark more than a week after Hurricane Sandy struck the region.
“I am sorry for what happened, I am very sorry for what happened,” said CEO Kevin Burke at a Thursday afternoon press conference. “We’ve worked on this very hard. We made a significant number of improvements after Hurricane Irene. Unfortunately, this one came in so much greater than what we were planning for.”
The utility company, responsible for a majority of Westchester County and New York City, has come under fire from residents and politicians for not having enough workers ready to deal with the storm’s aftermath.
More than 21,000 of Con Ed’s 348,198 Westchester customers are still without power as of 7:58 p.m. Thursday, according to the company’s power outage map.
Since the storm hit on Oct. 29, County Executive Robert Astorino said he and his staff have made daily calls to top officials at Con Edison, each Westchester town government and county department.
“We were on Con Ed every day to bring in more crews to expedite the restoration and I’m as frustrated as most people. But look, the Con Ed workers weren’t sitting around having a ham sandwich all day,” he said. “They were working as much as they could and that is no solace to anybody who has their lights out, but we wanted more and more reinforcements every day so people could get power back.”
Astorino said Con Edison should have had more people ready after the hurricane knocked out power to millions, but that yelling and screaming isn’t going to turn the power on faster.
Burke and Astorino spoke at the Westchester County multipurpose Hurricane Sandy recovery center, which will be open at the County Center seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for as long as officials see fit. The center allows people affected by Hurricane Sandy to speak with representatives from multiple organizations, including Con Edison, FEMA, United Way, the Red Cross and the Department of Health.
Port Chester resident Azline Kemp said she’s relying on Astorino “to step up to the plate now.” She was without power for six days.
“We voted for him, I voted for him,” said Kemp, who came to Westchester from Biloxi, Miss. after Hurricane Katrina.
The Red Cross entered several Westchester communities to provide aid to those in need after Sandy. Abigail Adams, regional communications officer for the organization, said her home in Chappaqua was still without power Thursday evening.
“This is probably the largest operation the Red Cross has seen in five years in the whole region,” said Adams. “All our resources are here. It’s enormous and we expect it to last for quite some time.”
New York State Assembly Thomas Abinanti (D-Greenburgh), who hasn’t had power for 10 days, said the county has been a second-class citizen in the eyes of Con Edison. He called for the county’s Public Utility Service Agency to “immediately bring a proceeding to 'de-certify' Con Edison.”
“We have to change the management immediately to get through the next few days,” he said. “Then we have to look at unplugging Con Edison. I think it’s realistic. People are furious.”