Dyker Heights

Another power outage in Dyker Heights sparks renewed calls for wiring makeover

December 2, 2019 Paula Katinas
Dyker Heights is one of several Brooklyn neighborhoods that have overhead electrical wires and have experienced service disruptions. Photo by Paula Katinas
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A power outage left thousands of Dyker Heights residents without electricity at the tail end of the long Thanksgiving weekend, according to local officials, who said the power was off for about three hours on Sunday afternoon.

Approximately 3,600 Con Edison customers living in an area located between 11th Avenue and 13th Avenue from 67th Street to 85th Street lost electricity. Con Edison immediately dispatched repair crews to the neighborhood to address the situation, officials said.

It’s not clear what caused the Dec. 1 power outage. “I heard it was caused by a transformer going out,” Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone said. “But I really don’t know what happened.”

Vella-Marrone was among the 3,600 customers who lost power.

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The famous Dyker Heights lights display, the holiday tradition featuring scores of homes decorated with thousands of twinkling lights and giant Santa Claus figures, reindeer and angels, was not affected by the power outage, said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, which encompasses Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge. The weekend after Thanksgiving marked the start of the light display-viewing season, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

“By 5 p.m., the electricity was back,” Beckmann said.

The neighborhood has been hit with at least three power outages this year alone, frustrated local residents said.

“It’s a regular occurrence,” Vella-Marrone. “It’s very frustrating. We pay a large amount in property taxes. We pay our Con Ed bills. And we’re not getting our money’s worth.”

Part of the problem, according to Beckmann, is the neighborhood’s infrastructure. Most New York City neighborhoods have underground wiring, but in many sections of Dyker Heights, electrical wires run above ground. “It’s susceptible to wind and sleet,” she said.

Councilmember Justin Brannan, who said he understands residents’ anger, called for a change to the current system.

“Every time the wind blows, there is a risk that Dyker Heights will lose power. Con Ed needs to step up and secure the infrastructure so that residents don’t have to stock up on candles every time there is a storm. The long-term fix here would be to bury the power lines, bringing the neighborhood power grid into the 21st century,” Brannan said in an email.

The electrical wires were placed above ground decades ago. Over the years, the Dyker Heights Civic Association has made several calls to the city to get the wires buried. “There are a few locations in the community where we were able to get it done. But most of the community has wires hanging overhead,” Vella-Marrone said.

The process of moving the above-ground electrical wires underground would be expensive and involved, according to Beckmann, but, she said, “it would be worth doing.”

Con Edison would have to work closely with both the city’s Department of Transportation and other utilities, like Verizon Fios, to determine exactly where to place the wiring underground, Beckmann said.

Local officials said there is no estimate available on the cost of such a project.

“In recent years, when we’ve asked, the city and Con Ed told us it would be cost prohibitive,” Vella-Marrone said.

Beckmann said Board 10 has also been told it would be too expensive to do. “But it’s something that needs to be considered, for the sake of people in Dyker Heights,” she said.

A Con Edison spokesperson said that moving overhead power systems underground would require “extensive excavation, causing significant disruption to neighborhoods.”

“The cost can run into millions of dollars per mile. Also customers would have to make underground connections that could cost them thousands of dollars,” the spokesperson added.

And even then, the issues might not be put to rest. “While overhead power lines are exposed to weather all year long, they can be repaired more quickly and less expensively than underground systems,” the spokesperson said. “Underground systems are also susceptible to the effects of weather, especially in the summer months.”

Additional reporting by Meaghan McGoldrick. 


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