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Queens Chronicle

Marshall misspoke on Rockaway electricity

LIPA didn’t tell borough president it would take 7 weeks to restore power

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 10:30 am

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall misspoke when she said LIPA told her it would take seven weeks to restore electricity to the Rockaways, her spokesman, Dan Andrews, said Tuesday.

But exactly how long she was told the repairs would take is unconfirmed. Either way, Marshall’s misstatement caused at least one other elected official to get dozens of phone calls and emails from concerned residents — within an hour.

The borough president made the comment on Saturday in an interview with 1010 WINS radio. Marshall said the reason she was given was that a transformer had blown.

The 1010 WINS interviewer pointed out that the Long Island Power Authority has said that its customers still without electricity would get it back within days, and asked Marshall to clarify her answer. She repeated that LIPA said it would be seven weeks before the peninsula has power again. That is a far longer time than any official in any area hit by Hurricane Sandy has said it would take for power to be restored anywhere.

“It should have been ‘several weeks,’” Andrews explained. “I think it came out as ‘seven weeks,’ but it should have been ‘several weeks.’”

State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) said he had heard the interview, and that within an hour, his office had received more than 50 phone calls and emails asking him if the time frame was true.

Goldfeder called LIPA and, he said, was told the real answer was “several days.”

The assemblyman declined to criticize Marshall for alarming their constituents.

“It happens,” he said. “When you have all this information coming at you, sometimes you misspeak. I would like to thank the borough president for her tremendous public service on behalf of all the communities in Queens.”

LIPA backs Goldfeder’s recollection. The utility, which mostly serves Nassau and Suffolk counties, but also the Rockaway Peninsula, expects all power transmission to be online by the end of this week, spokeswoman Lois Bentivegna and operations representative Bob Kascsak said in a joint interview Tuesday.

The utility has four substations in the Rockaways, and all were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, they said — one beyond repair. But they said the three will be fixed and the one replaced within days, if they haven’t been done already. But that doesn’t mean every homeowner will be able to draw electricity, however, though that’s a matter beyond the utility’s control.

“LIPA should be in pretty good shape by the end of the week,” Bentivegna said. “We’ll be able to energize the Rockaways, but not all homes and businesses will be able to receive the electricity.”

That’s because home and business owners must get city certification that it’s safe to run electricity into structures damaged by the hurricane. That is done either by licensed electricians or city inspectors, not by LIPA. That could take “several weeks” for a given home.

Bentivegna also stressed that safety must come first for everyone dealing with the restoration of power.

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