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Closter, NJ Residents Blaming New York Utility For Power Woes

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Storm Damage In Closter, New Jersey (credit: CBS 2)

Storm Damage In Closter, New Jersey (credit: CBS 2)

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LEONIA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — As utility crews continue trying to restore New Jersey’s spotty power grid, many residents said they were skeptical about getting power back by Thursday.

Some residents in Closter are accusing their power company of a snow job. With trees on the sidewalks and blocked roadways, the people of Closter haven’t had power since last weekend’s storm. They are blaming it on Rockland and Orange Electric, a New York power company that services them.

LATEST OUTAGES: PSE&GJCP&L | Orange & Rockland Electric

“I understand natural phenomenon, but I don’t understand the neglect,” Sandy Czarkowski told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.

Susan Boudet is trying to keep her parents — almost a 100 years old — and her parrots warm inside their home.

“I’ll tell you I don’t know how they did it in the 1600s,” she said. “I really don’t know how they did it.”

Rockland and Orange Electric, which has subcontracted crews in the area, says it hopes to restore power in Closter by Thursday. Residents, however, told CBS 2 that when they punched in their addresses on the company’s website, they’re being told it’s going to be much longer.

“I can’t do this another five days,” Boudet said.

Residents say they think New York residents were getting preference over them.  Officials from the utility said they are working on the problem diligently.

“I think that everybody thinks everybody else is getting a good deal. I think the utility company is trying to balance their needs — they had 96 towns out, they told me. Some are bigger and worse than Closter,” Mayor Sophie Heymann said.

Why is the town being serviced by a New York company?

Sloan was told the community had homes that sat very far away from each other years ago and that PSE&G wouldn’t service them.

Gov. Chris Christie responded to a question about preferential treatment and said he’s looking into it.

“We certainly didn’t get that during the Irene experience. It would surprise me, but I’ve been surprised lots of times during this job,” Christie said.

The talk of the neighborhood in Livingston is how one home was broken into this week. A family staying in a hotel had their empty house ransacked — a crime of opportunity, on top of everything else.

“The town says PSE&G’s gotta do their thing, PSE&G says the town’s gotta do their thing, it’s a chicken and egg scenario. Meanwhile, we have no power, no heat, no nothing,” Stacey Sherman told CBS 2′ Derricke Dennis.

Police have stepped up patrols as squad cars are on neighborhood watch.

While the power outage number continue to improve, one Montclair family is still dealing with have no heat or electricity.

“We’re kind of like an Amish family right now,” Cary Chevat told CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock.

The Chevats said PSE&G doesn’t know what’s going on on their street and even fielded a call, saying that their power had been restored.

“They don’t think our power is off. Listen, we understand it’s a storm, just tell us and we’ll go to a hotel,” Chevat said.

Other neighbors said they have had to endure similar frustrations.  One Montclair resident said he saw that PSE&G website indicated that power had been restored in his area, but when he checked out of his hotel and got home, nothing was working.

A spokeswoman from PSEG said their outage management system is working as designed.  It’s supposed to send out an email or voicemail telling customers the power is back on in their home even though it may not be.  And, if it’s not, residents should contact them immediately.

The outages were also causing other people int he Garden State to have trouble finding a place to stay.

Residents in Teaneck were waiting patiently by the fire. Others, for whatever reason, were not so lucky and are actively looking for alternatives.

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports: Christie Urges Patience

“My mother is 90 and there’s no heat, and there’s no telephone, so we can’t stay here,” said resident Tamar Bloch.

Area hotels are simply not an option.

“I’ve been calling and calling and calling and can’t find anywhere,” said resident Danielle Diaz.

The Crown Plaza in neighboring Englewood is booked, which means late holdouts who never expected to be displaced for this long are out of luck.

Asked if he considered going to a hotel, resident Carlos Hernandez answered: “Actually, that was my – I think two or three days is too many days to be in a friend’s house.”

At the height of the storm, 700,000 customers were in the dark. More than a dozen school districts remained closed Wednesday in northern New Jersey.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney At Liberty State Park

“I won’t be satisfied until everybody gets their power back,” said Gov. Christie on Wednesday.

But Christie says some outage-related problems cannot be solved with the proverbial snap of a finger, like in Morris County, where he says trees are down everywhere.

“On my own property, we have four complete trees down, not counting the large branches that also came down, too. This is labor-intensive work. They’ve got to go literally street to street,” said Christie.

He said he understands people’s frustrations when power remains out for days with cold nights and food spoiling.

“But, you know, we all need to, you know, get real about how long this stuff takes,” he said.

Christie is still hoping PSE&G and JCP&L can meet their goals of restoring power by week’s end.

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