Opinion: ConEdison’s winter rate hike is no way to start the new year

A winter note for the ambitious and the cold: unexpected taxes and New Year’s resolutions

December 28, 2022 Daniel Cody
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BUSHWICK — On Friday night, the storm that hit Brooklyn from the west kicked up the powdery substance that gathered next to the curb at the intersection of Wilson and Flushing avenues in Bushwick; a mixture of dirt, salt and freshly-planted snow swirled in the street and slapped people in the face. 

The glass towers of Long Island City, suspended in the distance and viewable via the urban canyon that runs north from the intersection of Flushing and Wilson, were surrounded by low hanging clouds. The lights on top of these glass towers hung faintly in the distance and looked smudged by the storm, yet they stayed illuminated in the night. 

The air was so frigid that to breathe comfortably one had to put their tongue at the back of their throat, like Russian-speakers, to preserve warmth within their bodies. A woman wearing a puffy tan coat, a large hat and a balaclava scurried around the corner of Tina’s Restaurant in an odd and urgent fashion, like she was running and hopping at the same time.

In contrast to the hot summers in Brooklyn and Queens, when people shower off and excise the dirt and sweat collected during the day, the public will be clutching to additional layers and coverings to prevent looking unseemly or freezing. The elements are a bitter reminder that we should stay inside as much as possible, to shelter ourselves. 

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Yet, the winter is when we are surrounded by our physical possessions and workplace and living environments the most. The quick strolls around the block and cigarette breaks on the street become nearly impossible when the air becomes as cold as it is now.

ConEdison’s recent rate hike to raise $1.7 billion in additional revenue to counteract the temperature change is the most expedient way to view the transition into the coldness at the end of the year — an inconvenience that’s not just about the ability to enjoy nature. People living around the East River and under ConEd’s coverage area will be paying, in effect, a winter tax administered not by a local government or the IRS, but a private entity in charge of our electricity. Like last summer when the electric bill skyrocketed because of air-conditioning and record-high temperature, there will be another season-related expense for residents. 

The cold holidays seem like a repurposed or revamped time of year, originally meant for primitive hibernation, now actualized by the invention of the heater and the puffy jacket. It is the time when we create New Year’s resolutions – at least if you have a planning and social bone in your body – for the next 12 months and spend time with family. Some of us have no family or heaters or puffy jackets made of faux fur to keep us warm and comfortable, unable to afford or enjoy them for whatever reason.

The winter tax is an excellent reason not to afford heating, in fact, it will be the reason that some families stay deliberately cold to save money during the upcoming weeks. The shareholders of ConEdison, though, will be certainly more comfortable knowing that the market’s appraisal of their stock is steadily increasing in value. I’m sure they will be quite warm. 

If you are irked, like me, about the private, regressive winter tax, I can imagine it to be difficult to be excited this week and generate a New Year’s resolution satisfactory enough to deter champagne-or-beer-drinking friends from prodding further about your business. 

Assemblymembers and politicians in Brooklyn and Queens – Kirsten Gonzalez, Julia Salazar and Zohran Mamdani – have called for “public power,” a phrase and policy movement that I like very much, and to echo these endorsements toward public power and the consolidation of ConEdison and other companies like it into entities incentivized to keep us warm in lieu of generating a wider margin, the ambitious among us should absolve our frustrations during the cold times to create our own “public power.”

If the material reality is that the average person living in the boundaries of ConEd’s jurisdiction must pay more for winter, we must ask more from winter (and from ConEd)!

Admittedly, I have never followed through on a new year’s resolution. Nonetheless, here are some that you might find suitable to ask more from your winter.

New Year’s resolutions to cope with the winter, winter tax:

    • LEARN TO SHIVER MORE EFFECTIVELY: Google won’t tell you how to shiver better (I looked it up), but you can sure try to figure it out! Stand outside for a few minutes in a t-shirt and see if you can master the new-age art of shivering.
    • LEARN HOW TO WEAR MITTENS WHILE COOKING: Losing circulation in your hands while making breakfast? You could try cooking with mittens. You probably won’t have the proper locomotion to turn on the stove but think of it like extra protection on your hands that you exchange for warmth and security. Ben Franklin would be heated.
    • CREATE A D.I.Y. FIREPLACE: If you think about it, a fireplace is a small area in which you burn things. You can do that in a lot of areas. Be creative about it! Live like ancient men and burn things in your apartment to stay warm.
    • GO TO AN ICE RINK TO WARM UP: Get a hot chocolate, circle around on ice skates, and think about how much colder your bedroom is!
    • CREATE A LOUNGE IN YOUR BUILDING’S BOILER ROOM: Who knew that the new luxury would be the boiler room? Like a sauna for Swedes, we can socialize in a damp and hot room to avoid the outside world. Get some chairs and put on HBO’s White Lotus while the screeching cylinder machine makes uncertain noises. Luxurious.

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