Holden gets Con Ed concession 1

Councilman Bob Holden

Following some back-and-fourth last week, Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) on Tuesday thanked Con Edison for “doing the right thing” in announcing steps to make the sometimes unannounced installation of smart meters less worrisome for residents in the coming weeks.

The councilman nearly two weeks ago answered his doorbell to find it was a “cold call” from a contractor seeking to install a smart meter in his home.

In a letter to Con Ed President and CEO Timothy Cawley on Aug. 9 and a press release last Friday, Holden demanded that the utility stop “cold-knocking” on residents’ doors to install the meters without a confirmed appointment.

Holden tweeted on Tuesday that conversations ahead of time may bring some peace of mind to the 13,000 homeowners in his district who do not yet have the devices.

“We ... discussed ways to make the scheduling of meters as efficient and painless as possible,” Holden wrote. “I thank the representatives from Con Edison for listening to my neighbors and me and doing the right thing.”

That includes Con Edison’s agreement to hire additional installers for work that will be conducted beginning the first two weeks of September.

In his statement last week, Holden said the utility’s practice of sending contractors to homes unannounced without a confirmed appointment is troublesome and potentially dangerous.

A Con Ed spokesperson said in an email that the company does try to arrange for appointments beforehand.

Holden last week expressed concern that the cold-knocking could be an invitation to scammers looking to take advantage of the system to enter people’s homes “especially at a time when so many scammers are preying on our seniors.”

He said National Grid and other utilities communicate effectively and safely, and wondered why Con Ed could not do the same.

“We take the safety and security of our customers seriously, which is why we send notices to customers and offer them the opportunity to make an appointment before we knock on their door to install a smart meter,” a Con Ed spokesperson told the Chronicle in an email on Wednesday. “We also issue frequent fraud prevention warnings to the public. The messages are sent directly to customers and through the media remind the public to be vigilant.”

The spokesperson also said all customers should ask anyone who claims to be from Con Edison to show the proper identification.

Holden, in his Aug. 9 letter to Cawley, acknowledged that Con Edison spells out its existing procedure on its website.

Residents receive a postcard about three months before the utility plans to start work in a given neighborhood. Con Ed then sends out a letter targeted to reach residents about 45 days before work is planed to start.

The letter includes information on how to schedule an appointment to have a meter installed. But Holden wrote at the time that the system was “inefficient and has to change.” He also wrote that many seniors in his district have been victims of people claiming to represent the utility.

Residents also may call 1 (800) 576-2005 to make a convenient appointment for installation. Appointments are available Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information is available online at coned.com.

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