ISLAND PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A class action lawsuit was filed against the Long Island Power Authority and its partner National Grid on Tuesday as thousands of Long Island residents are still without power more than two weeks after Superstorm Sandy.
Two Nassau County LIPA customers are the first plaintiffs to join the lawsuit claiming breach of contract, gross negligence and fraud.
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“We’re bringing a class action because I believe somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million people have been one way or another damaged by the ineptitude of this organization,” said attorney Ken Mollins.
Besides seeking civil damages, Mollins said he has also filed a complaint with the New York State Inspector General seeking possible criminal prosecution.
“To investigate the way money has been spent by LIPA and I say to the Inspector General — if it’s criminal, I want arrests. If it’s civil, I want damages,” he said. “We want accountability.”
The utility has been sharply criticized for leaving Long Islanders in the cold and dark for more than two weeks without estimates or clear instructions.
Tuesday morning, about 19,000 customers were still without power.
“I want to see my lights back on, I want to see gas coming into the house so I can get some heat,” said Island Park resident Larry Kushel. “I’m living in the dark.”
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“It’s like banging your head against a wall,” said Bellmore resident Marietta Pollack. “It’s a nightmare that doesn’t end.”
Many customers have demanded a company shakeup while elected officials have called for a federal takeover of the restoration.
“It is a system that doesn’t work in this type of crisis,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. “It doesn’t. It is a system from a different time and a different place.”
LIPA said it’s in the homestretch and on track to restore power to 99 percent of its 1.1 million outages by Tuesday night.
But the remaining one percent — around 10,000 homes — will take more time and that doesn’t include 46,000 flooded homes that have damaged equipment.
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For those, LIPA has now agreed to let private electricians certify repairs and plug in meters to speed up restoration.
“We’re focused on restoration and we’ll continue to focus on restoration of those remaining customers and there will be plenty of time to assess performance,” said John Bruckner, president of National Grid, which contracts with LIPA for service and maintenance.
Bruckner said about 15,000 people are working on restoration, including 6,400 linemen from all over the U.S. and Canada.
But that doesn’t mean much for those residents who have spent 15 days in the dark.
“This is ridiculous,” said Massapequa resident Gary Clark. “Shock and a shame.”
LIPA denied it has a supply shortage or that it was unprepared. There has been no immediate response from the company regarding the lawsuit.
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