From ages 1-82, residents of Dade Road in New City are cold and left in the dark for the sixth consecutive day as they wait, peeking out their windows for an O&R truck.
On Thursday, local and state officials gathered on this road to express their outrage with Orange and Rockland Utilities’ response to power outages caused by Saturday’s snow storm.
“We’re here really to call upon the public service commission to do a formal investigation as to the response times and many of the policies surrounding the lack of getting power up and running,” said Senator David Carlucci. “One of the main frustrations that we hear is about the communication with the customers of O&R.”
“It has been horrible,” said Dolores Ferenz of Dade Street, adding that her house has been as cold as 40 degrees. “The first two nights I slept here, I slept under five blankets and that wasn’t enough.” Ferenz lost power on Saturday and is still waiting. She’s been staying at a friend’s home since Monday.
“I’d like to come back to my house to get back to things that have to be done,” said the 82-year-old. “I can’t communicate with anybody. Monday night I was without communication at all, not even a cell phone. I felt like I was incarcerated. I want to know what O&R is going to do to help … Everybody that is without electricity. How does Orange and Rockland pick different neighborhoods to get the electricity on first, not that I’m saying I should be first, but what is the priority here?”
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee echoed Ferenz’s thoughts.
“We understood their concern with putting power back to the largest number of homes first and then moving down the line, but we have great concern regarding the communications system, their outreach to the community, the community having access to O&R,” she said.
Residents with no lines of communication, especially for Rockland’s elderly, sets up many unsafe possibilities. Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, who also has not had power since Saturday, said the current situation was unacceptable.
“First and foremost, we need to ensure that every possible crew and every possible person is mobilized at this moment to get the thousands of Rocklanders that are still in the dark back up online because this is truly becoming a dangerous scenario,” he said.
Dark homes also pose dangers for families with young children. Just one house over lives the Martin family with a 1- and 5-year-old.
“We’ve been here a year. We had an incident with a tree falling down on our house. It was due to (Hurricane) Irene. And now it’s this: The snow coming early and our power being out,” said Quinn Martin. “We were thinking it was only going to be 2 or 3 hours and come to find out, it’s six days later. I just want my kids to have my house back.”
“O&R has failed miserably,” said Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack. “The way they handled this (storm) is nothing short of incompetency. People are calling. They’re giving wrong information. They need to figure out jow to run a power company.”
Many families have had to temporarily seek shelter elsewhere at a hotel, friend or family’s home.
“I don’t want to go over to people’s homes. I don’t want to be inconveniencing people even though they’re our family and friends,” Martin said. “I’m tired of living out of my car. I’m tired of taking my kids in the car and drive around to keep warm and finding things for these kids to do. That’s what’s really frustrating. It’s for my kids.”
The residents of Dade Road say they keep getting different updates from O&R as to when power will be restored and others don’t have an update at all.
Neighbor Angel Santos Cruz lives across the street from Ferenz and has been "taking care of her for 17 years."
"It's been six, almost seven days without power," he said. "No one has an answer." He added that residents should not panic and buy generators if they don't know how to properly use it. "Do your research first," he said, referring to the recent death of a Chestnut Ridge man, who police say he most likely died in his sleep from carbon monoxide. The poisonous carbon monoxide came from a generator that was heating his home during the power outage.
“Not getting information is actually what’s ticking us off,” said Martin. “If they gave us an answer, we would be acceptable to what’s going on. But at this point right now, six days later and you still don’t have an answer.
Officials plan to do comprehensive review of the situation immediately and have asked the Public Service Commission to suspend request.
“We would like for it to be a very rigorous review,” said Jaffee. “A conversation with ourselves and the community to share the realities on the ground.”
Carlucci, Zebrowski and Jaffee met with O&R representatives on Wednesday to share with them the frustration of the community with the lack of communication lines between O&R and its customers.
“I look forward to partnering with the governor’s office … requesting meetings immediately so we can determine what went wrong and what we can improve,” said Zebrowski.
“They have mismanaged this storm just like they did Hurricane Irene,” said Gromack. “They’ve learned nothing from handling these storms. People are still without power, lack of communication and then they have the gall that they want a rate increase. I want hope the Public Service Commissiondenies that rate increase and gives the people of Clarkstown and Rockland a rebate.”