Over the weekend, temperatures here in New York City reached over 100 degrees with the heat index. I had just come back from Florida and it was hotter here in Brooklyn than it was in Miami. Less than a week ago, there was a blackout in Manhattan and city residents were beginning to worry that with a heatwave coming up, the city would have a complete blackout.
New York City is no stranger to blackouts. The worst probably being in the summer of 1977. This blackout led to looting and arson costing the city an estimated $1 billion in damages. The city hasn’t had too many blackouts on this scale since then, but with an overloaded power system and more and more people living in the city, every summer it is a threat.
This past weekend in order to preempt a possible city-wide blackout, ConEd turned the power off on 30,000 New York City Residents. In the middle of the heat wave. Residents who are paying for power were forced to sit in the dark without lights, AC, boilers, refrigerators, unable to charge their phones etc. While being without power was bad enough, the neighborhoods that ConEd targeted were predominately black neighborhoods such as Canarsie, Mill Basin, and Flatbush (Mill Basin does have a very affluent side to it that is predominately white. However, they could not shut off parts without being so blatant in their racism). New York City for all it’s diversity, is one of the most segregated cities in the country. These neighborhoods were not picked by random.
I know someone who was personally affected by this blackout and their 95-year-old grandmother was found sitting in a hot, dark house dripping in sweat. She now has a cold. The blackout also led to an increase in police presence in these areas, and in a racially charged climate this could have led to horrible repercussions.
Con Edison justified this planned blackout by saying that in order to make repairs and prevent the system from overloading they had to turn off the power to these residents. It’s interesting that they didn’t chose to turn off the power in Brooklyn Heights, or Williamsburg? There are probably more residencies in predominately white neighborhoods with built in AC units that were running than in the predominately black neighborhoods.
There is no excuse or justification for the course of action taken by ConEd. Summer happens every year. Heat waves also happen every year. This is a service that is being provided and it is being paid for. ConEd needs to take the necessary measures to ensure that there will be no blackouts before the summer starts. Not create a problem when there wasn’t any. For those who were affected by the blackout, you can go on ConEdison’s website to file a claim for any food or medicine that you lost as a result of the blackout.