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Queens Chronicle

Should residents buy generators from utilities?

Legislation is getting mixed reviews

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Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:41 am, Thu Dec 20, 2012.

Hurricane Sandy taught the city many lessons, perhaps the greatest of which is the need to be prepared when one’s electricity goes out. To that end, Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) will be introducing legislation designed to make generators easier to obtain.

The plan is to get utility companies to buy the machines wholesale by giving them a tax credit toward the cost. They would then sell the generators to their customers, who could pay off what they owe through a small increase in their monthly utility bill.

“It speaks to one of the big problems with the storm, and that was a lack of power,” Scarborough said Monday.

The bill is presently being drafted by legislative staffers. There is no companion bill in the senate yet.

“We won’t comment on it until we see it,” Chris Olert, a spokesman for ConEdison, said Monday.

The Long Island Power Authority, did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time.

“I think it’s a good idea — if the utility companies use it to help people and not just to make a profit,” said George Buonocore of Howard Beach, whose home suffered extensive damage from Sandy. “A lot of people don’t have enough money to spend on a decent generator, so something is better than nothing.”

But not everyone thinks the legislation would aid those slammed by the storm — particularly those who were disappointed by what they considered a lackluster response by LIPA.

“I would not support any bill that gives more money, power, or authority to the utility companies because they have not proven that they have the ability to manage their finances or to respond appropriately after a natural disaster,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway). “Find a way to give them more money so they can spill it down the drain? Absolutely not.”

Goldfeder said he looks forward to working with Scarborough, whom he called a friend, in order to come up with a better solution.

“Eighty-five percent of my district was damaged by the hurricane so there is no one that is more sensitive to people that are hurting,” Goldfeder said, “but this is not the answer.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who represents much of the same area, remained on the fence about the bill, when asked Wednesday if he would support the legislation.

“I think we need to invest in our utility companies,” Addabbo said. “Even though we are frustrated by their response after Sandy, they have to step up and improve customer service to ward against these same types of situations in the future.”

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