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Thousands still left without electricity

Utility company engineers and workmen continue to work around the clock to power supplies to Lower Manhattan and the rest of New York’s outer boroughs following last week’s devastating Hurricane Sandy.

The storm and subsequent floodwaters caused the spectacular explosion of an electrical substation on 14th Street on the eventing of Monday 29 October, plunging large parts of Lower Manhattan into darkness for four days. Exposed communities along the coastline were also badly hit after substations were inundated and power lines brought down.

New York energy provider Con Edison had hoped to restore all power by Sunday night, however the scale of work needed meant it was unable to meet this deadline, with the areas around the shore and World Trade Center still without mains power.

“The problem with the buildings is the basements are still full of water,” a Con Edison engineer told NCE.

Many of the buildings along the shoreline in Lower Manhattan have deep-level car parks full of water. “They need to clear the water out before any electricity can be turned on,” added the engineer.

The power problems have effectively split Manhattan in two. North of 34th Street was relatively unaffected by the hurricane, with very little damage and full services.

But south of 34th Street did not have any power until Saturday, with some places around the shoreline still not connected.

As NCE went to press, Con Edison had restored service to more than 770,000 customers, or about 80% of all those who lost electricity in the city from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.

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Con Edison said approximately 180,000 customers were still without electricity, out of an estimated 950,000 affected. That includes 5,000 in Manhattan, 45,000 in Queens, 22,000 in Brooklyn, 16,000 in Staten Island and 10,000 in the Bronx.

Long Island Power Authority, which bore the brunt of the storm, is fairing less well. It has now restored power to 694,000 customers, more than 300,000 still 275,000 without service.

Anger is growing at the time it is taking to restore power and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has threatened all power companies in the state with legal action over the delays.

In a letter to the CEOs of the seven utilities that operate in New York State, Cuomo says that he will take “appropriate action” against them and their management if it is found that they failed to adequately prepare for the storm.

“The response of your companies to this emergency will be, in great part, a function of how well you prepared for it and a testament to how seriously you view this responsibility.”

“If you failed to prepare, however, as evidenced by your response, it is a failure to keep the trust that New Yorkers have placed in you by granting you the privilege to conduct utility business in New York State,” the letter says.

“Under such circumstances, I would direct the Public Service Commission to commence a proceeding to revoke your Certificates,” it says.

City’s major projects escape worst of Sandy

New York subway’s major construction projects emerged unscathed from Hurricane Sandy, officials told NCE.

Subway operator the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) said the location of its major capital construction projects prevented them from being inundated with flood water.

“Geography played a big role in why the sites were largely unaffected,” said Richard Mulieri, MTA Capital Construction director of government and community affairs. “There was no sign of damage - we were very fortunate.”

Mulieri said MTA’s four major projects - Second Avenue, East Side Access, Fulton Center and 7 Subway Extension - were far enough from the shoreline to be unaffected by the tidal surge.

Following the hurricane project engineers checked the tunnels across the sites for any flooding but found none.

However, above ground the projects suffered a small amount of damage, according to Mulieri, such water in trenches and damages to signs.

He added the advanced notice of the hurricane helped minimise damage and followed similar precautions were taken during Hurricane Irene last year.

Construction on the projects resumed this week, however will be slower than with problems due to site deliveries, he said.

Overall completion dates - with Fulton Street and Seven Subway Extension due for completion in 2014, Second Avenue in 2016 and East Side Access in 2019 - are unaffected.

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