Flooding from Hurricane Sandy can be seen in this aerial U.S. Coast Guard handout photo showing Long Island, New York, October 30, 2012. Millions of people across the U.S. Northeast stricken by massive storm Sandy will attempt to resume normal lives on Wednesday as companies, markets and airports reopen, despite grim projections of power and mass transit outages lasting several more days. Picture taken October 30, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
Frustration against utility Long Island Power Authority continues to surge as more than 170,000 customers remain without power two weeks after Hurricane Sandy. Reports of outdated infrastructure and overall unpreparedness are to blame for the company's painfully slow response to Long Island's power outages.
On Friday, hundreds of residents descended on Oceanside to protest against the utility's failure to properly deal with power outages in the aftermath of the superstorm, Newsday reported. There, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) were booed and drowned out amid chants of "What do we want? Power! When do we want it? Now!"
At the same time, fellow federal elected officials used a news conference in Bethpage to call on the federal government to help restore power to Long Islanders. Paul Sabatino, a municipal law expert and former Suffolk legislative counsel, told Newsday that action to change the utility would have to stem from the State Legislature.
"It is a New York State authority," Sabatino said to Newsday. "It's not like this is some private entity that has run amok or some entity from Mars who came to run the grid. It's a public entity."
According to the New York Post, LIPA is made up of a 15-member board of directors, all of whom are non-utility professionals that are named by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and two legislative leaders. However, a third of the board seats are currently vacant, thus leading to the leadership oversight in the past few years.
Moves to reform LIPA go back as far as 2006 when a state report and record review showed that the utility ran on outdated technology, was unprepared for a major storm and failed to keep up with maintenance, Newsday reported. According to the report, LIPA used pen-and-paper memos and dial-up Internet connections instead of newer technology like smartphones and digital tablets.
The state report also highlighted the authority's outage management system, which operated on a 25-year-old mainframe computer, Newsday wrote. Michael Hervey, LIPA's chief operating officer, told the newspaper that a new outage management system that had been ordered had not been implemented yet.
The company is also charged with failing to sustain basic maintenances like trimming trees around power lines or replacing rotting poles.
Walter Drabinski, president of Vantage Energy Consulting Llc, the company hired by the state to report on LIPA, told Newsday that the utility failed to properly budget on storm-readiness measures despite years of warnings.
As a result, the utility has severely lagged behind in restoring power back to its customers post-hurricane and post-nor'easter. It may continue to lag in restoration time after announcing on Saturday that it will require inspectors to conduct safety assessments on homes in Nassau and Suffolk counties before restoring power.