As power outages loom, public will weigh in on Con Ed rate hikes

Constantinides speaking in Jackson Heights in June.  Eagle  photo by Victoria Merlino.

Constantinides speaking in Jackson Heights in June. Eagle photo by Victoria Merlino.

By Victoria Merlino

In the shadow of recent widespread power outages throughout the city, Councilmembers Costa Constantinides and Rafael Espinal will host a public input session on Monday regarding Con Edison’s controversial rate hike, which would raise the average monthly electric bill by $4.45 and the average gas bill $17.28 beginning in January 2020.  

The increase, if enacted, would net Con Edison an additional $695 million between electricity and natural gas customers to help fund infrastructure projects, including upgrades to the company’s outage management system and replacing gas lines, as well as investments in environmentally friendly technology, such as building public electric vehicle chargers.   

The proposed rate hike faces even more opposition following last week’s intense heat wave, which saw tens of thousands of Con Edison customers lose power, including large outages in Flushing and Richmond Hill and transformer fires in Astoria, Jamaica and Hollis. Some outages were intentional, as the company tried to stem outages by reducing power consumption.

Elected officials have been less than thrilled with the power company’s performance. 

“Completely unacceptable performance by @ConEdison leadership during this heatwave. To leave 50,000 customers (which means thousands of more actual people) without power in scalding temperatures and not communicate what’s going on is deplorable. NYC deserves better!” Constantinides tweeted on Monday.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who will also be attending the public input session, sent a letter to Con Edison on Friday calling for accountability and questioning the rate increases in light of the large blackout that left 73,000 Manhattanites in the dark last week. 

"We are at a point where we really cannot trust Con Edison and they cannot keep asking for rate hikes if they cannot guarantee that their equipment will be up to par with the needs of New York City," Williams said at a news conference, as reported by Patch.

The public input sessions will occur at P.S. 122 at 21-21 Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria.