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Tempers Boiling Over As Long Island Remains In The Dark, Cold

LIPA Protest

Protesters target the Long Island Power Authority in Hicksville. (Credit: Sophia Hall/WCBS 880)

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Superstorm Sandy

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island residents were rallying Saturday for fed up power customers to voice their frustration about still being in the dark.

One Saturday rally began at 10 a.m. outside Long Island Power Authority and National Grid headquarters in Hicksville. Another was held at 3 p.m. in Marjorie R. Post Community Park in Massapequa.

1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported over 100 protesters gathered in Hicksville, holding signs expressing their fury, reading “honk for heat” and “change the leadership.”

1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports


“I live here in Hicksville. We’re in the middle of the island. We have no tidal surge, obviously, and why am I sitting here with no power?” said another protester, Pete. “That outage map that’s online is terrible. It tells me nothing. There’s no place for me to call to get information.”

Another protester, John Mangan of Levittown, said LIPA should be brought up on criminal charges. He said his neighbor relies on oxygen and a feeding tube to survive, and she had to be hospitalized because the power has been out so long.

“I have two poles off – 13 days to fix a pole? What, are you kidding me? I’m in the middle of the island,” Mangan said. “Governor Cuomo has to get rid of LIPA. We have to find out if Minnie or Mickey is running that service and have them put the power on for these people. It is a disgrace.”

The drivers listened and honked in droves.

Another man told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall he had been in the dark for nearly 13 days.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reports


“People have to look to move off Long Island,” he said. “You can’t safeguard your family. I mean, we’re sitting in a cold house. Nobody comes by.”

But there was one woman who stood up with a sign saying she was supporting LIPA. In fact, she gave them a grade A.

At a news conference and in a news release Saturday afternoon, LIPA did not address the complaints directly, but did say 99 percent customers will have power back by Tuesday – except for those in areas that sustained too much damage to restore power.

As of Saturday, LIPA had restored 93 percent of power to customers. A total of 38,000 customers remained without power in Nassau County, and 28,000 in Suffolk County, LIPA said.

“Over a million customers have been restored to date, and 130,000 remain,” said John Bruckner, president of National Grid.

A workforce of 15,000 linemen, field and support personnel have brought power back to 84,000 customers in the past 24 hours, LIPA said. But while there is power from some neighborhoods, some homes are so severely damaged that they cannot connect to the electrical grid, LIPA said.

Most of the severely damaged homes are in Island Park, Oceanside, and the East Rockaway area, as well as pockets in some South Shore communities, LIPA said.

In Nassau, 250 surveyors were out in the field with technicians and servicemen following to restore power to homes where it was safe to do so. A total of up to 500 more linemen were set to join the 9,600 already on the ground Saturday, LIPA said.

Still, as CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported Saturday morning, many residents had been in the dark for 13 days as of this weekend, and there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

Driving through the dark neighborhoods early Saturday morning, it was inevitable to wonder how long people could take it. The storm hit two weeks ago Monday, and of course, all agree that getting the power back is a monumental task.

But people trying to survive the conditions in Oceanside, Long Island, have begun asking – where is the response? Where is the gasoline? Where is the electricity? And where is the Long Island Power Authority?

A man walking his dog in Oceanside Saturday morning was livid.

“This is the United States of America,” he said. “We should be ashamed.”

On Friday, what started as a news conference by the utility to inform the public on its progress in the restoration effort turned into an angry protest by frustrated customers.

More than 500 residents of Oceanside chanted “LIPA sucks” and said the utility has failed to provide information, give estimates as to when power will be restored, and dispatch workers to the hardest-hit communities.

“We just want help!” one woman sobbed at the protest rally Friday. “We just want help!”

Closing in on the two-week mark since Sandy, shock among those living in Stone Age conditions has already begun erupting into rage.

“Forget about having them come out to help us,” one man said. “Fire them. Get rid of them. Let somebody else come in now.”

The man’s message to the power companies might apply to just about everyone in a position of authority, as crowds of tired, furious and cold residents have been taking to the street.

Officials from National Grid defended their performance, even though their partners from LIPA did not show up to a news conference Friday.

“We are progressing very well based on the unprecedented damage from the storm. As far as the system being obsolete, the owner of the system [LIPA] would be in a better situation to answer that question,” said John Bruckner of the National Grid.

As for when the lights would be back on, authorities said the non-flooded homes should be back by Tuesday, but they could not say when the rest would be back.

U.S. Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), along with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, have been calling on the federal government to take over LIPA’s storm recovery effort.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also expressed rage at New York power companies across the board, though much of his anger was focused at Con Edison.

“To say that I am angry, to say that I am frustrated, disappointed, would be the understatement of the decade,” Cuomo said last week.

When asked what kind of recourse he had against the power companies, Cuomo reminded a reporter that they are regulated by a government authority.

“They’re regulated by the Public Service Commission. The utilities were not created in the Bible. They’re not in the Old Testament. They’re not in the New Testament. God never said, ‘New York shall have these utilities forever, and Con Ed is the utility, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ It’s really not in the Bible,” the governor said.

Do you think some recourse should be taken against power companies? Leave your comments below…