Congressmen: Army Corps should help LI get power
November 9, 2012
Two congressmen from Long Island plan to ask the White House to send federal employees to Long Island to wrest the lead role in restoring power to a part of the country that still has tens of thousands of people in the dark 12 days after Superstorm Sandy struck.
Reps. Peter King and Steve Israel said they were sending a letter Friday requesting that personnel from the Army Corps of Engineers and Energy Department assume work of the Long Island Power Authority. They and state and local officials at a news conference echoed sentiments expressed earlier by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that LIPA's performance has been inadequate.
As of Friday afternoon, LIPA reported that 165,000 homes and businesses on Long Island were without power. The utility has said as many as 60,000 of those customers had homes or businesses severely damaged by flooding from a storm surge and would require extensive repairs before workers can begin to restore power.
Some who had electricity restored in the days following Sandy's wrath lost power again after a nor'easter struck Wednesday night and brought more than 6 inches of snow to some parts of Long Island.
LIPA, which had earlier set a goal of restoring 90 percent of all customers by Wednesday, has declined to respond to the withering criticism. Officials say the company was focused on restoring power and not engaging in a debate with politicians.
A utility spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.
Israel, a Democrat, said the military has expertise that could assist the local effort.
"When the lights went off in Baghdad and the lights went off in Kabul, it was the Army Corps of Engineers that went into Baghdad and Kabul to turn the lights back on," he asserted. "We don't need to turn the lights back on in Kabul and Baghdad. We need to turn the lights back on in Plainview and Great Neck and the south shore."
King, a Republican, said a letter was being sent to the White House later Friday. Both lawmakers said they expected a response in the next several days.
"This is something we're doing almost reluctantly because there should be local responsibility," said King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
"Unfortunately, LIPA has failed so miserably that the federal government must step in with all possible resources at the earliest possible."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and some Army Corps personnel have been on Long Island for more than a week, but King said he wants additional resources sent in.
In Lindenhurst, N.Y., one of the regions hardest hit by Sandy, Joseph O'Brien and his 24-year-old son DJ, who is in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, tried to cope Friday with another day of no electricity.
"It's just no heat no hot water; dealing with the daily routines of normal life like setting your alarm," O'Brien said, who has remained in the damaged home and keeps warm with a propane heater at night.
"It's rough for him because his wheelchair went under water," he said. "I will pay for a new chair. I just can't go online, can't shop, can't leave, no gas; just everything combined makes it very difficult."