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Release Date: March 20, 2018


The Greenburgh Town Board met this morning with the Commissioner of Public Works, town arborist, Commissioner of Planning to discuss initiatives that could be taken in the future to minimize the possibilities of long power outages. A link to the you tube discussion is below.

The following blueprint was presented to the Board by me earlier today. Our Forestry Officer, Aaron Schmidt indicated that one suggestion listed below: topping trees could damage the health of trees. Councilwoman Diana Juettner pointed out that we need balance. If many trees are cut there will be more flooding.  The Building Inspector, Steve Fraietta, warned   about the dangers of some generators if not installed safely by licensed electricians.  And the Commissioner of Public Works, Victor Carosi mentioned that if we pursue placing wires underground they should not be placed near pipes near water lines. We could, however, coordinate work that we are doing in areas with Con Ed – to reduce costs. 



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzW_rBgpe_c&feature=youtu.be00  meeting 3/20/2018


A BLUEPRINT: THOUGHTS ON ACTION STEPS CON ED, GOVERNMENTS COULD TAKE TO MINIMIZE PROBLEMS AFTER A MAJOR STORM AND REDUCE NUMBER OF FUTURE CON ED OUTAGES. Since the last Con Ed power outage I have been in contact with numerous officials and residents trying to come up with recommendations and action plans to minimize the possibility of quality of life disruptions to residents after the next major storm and power outages.  Here are some thoughts.


TREES.  Greenburgh has had a team dedicated to tree trimming and removal for a number of years. It's probably one of the most aggressive programs in the county. We, as a town, fared better than other communities during recent storms


More aggressive attention with tree pruning around power lines, dead and alive near wires. Proactive trimming of trees so that they do not blow over (NEGATIVE FROM TOWN ARBORIST: topping trees in many instances in not a recommended practice).  A suggestion was made in a letter to the editor by Art Gunther, former editorial page editor of the Rockland issue of the Journal News that Con Ed should begin an aggressive program to remove every tree in a utility right of way (OPPOSING VIEW: community character issues), replacing with low rise species. Encourage property owners to take down trees near the right of way (DOWNSIDE TO THIS SUGGESTION: differentiating between trees to remain, the second the Town or Con Ed takes a position on a tree to remain, if that tree comes down, liability issues).  This could be cheaper than after storm restoration.


There were lots of large trees that came down and blocked roads on main and side streets. The town has been working with Con Ed during the past 10 years on an aggressive tree trimming program and cutting program to remove potential threats. Significant dollars are appropriated annually for this initiative. We should be more aggressive. One thought: Organize, with civic associations, neighborhood walking tours with Con Ed, the community, officials and Con Ed would see what’s really dead or on the way.  Let's be proactive.  Should point out that in the past whenever Con Ed tries cutting or trimming trees near wires - residents who live near the trees object.  We can't have it both ways.


Homeowners who have privately owned trees on private property that are in danger of falling over wires should be required to trim their trees (similar to above, for those trees deemed to be “ok” or “non-hazardous” the second the Town takes a position on such trees, if that tree comes down, liability issues). Perhaps, Con Ed or NYS should provide financial help to those owners that have trees that need trimming. Penalties should be imposed on homeowners who refuse to cut or trim a tree on their property that is in danger of falling after being contacted.


Con Ed should provide educational materials on how to identify such trees that are in danger of falling.


Frequent inspections of trees/poles where there is a history of prolonged power outages by Con Ed during year.


Can Con Ed use sonic technology to test the hollowness of a tree in order to decide it’s safety to homes and infrastructures?


Another thought:  Look at the post storm data on tree damage. Millions are spent every year on trimming trees. Has that overall been effective.  What causes the majority of outages and what takes the longest restoration time.  Is it falling branches on lines or entire large falling trees that have poor root systems or are dead?  Maybe funds should be redirected to areas that have the largest impact.


GENERATORS.  Con Ed, the county or state should negotiate deep discounts for the purchase of generators and could purchase them in bulk. NYS should offer tax credits and or affordable monthly payments to make it easier for people to purchase generators.   Con Ed could offer a service to customers installing generators and maintaining them during outages. This could be helpful for seniors.  Con Edison may want to assist homeowners with installing exterior receptacles and the other wiring needed to safely run the generator. They usually require a licensed electrician to do this work which is very expensive…


When there are extended power outages, Con Ed could offer to install loaner generators to some elderly, disabled residents who don't have generators in their homes.


Any credit for backup generators should prioritize solar backup generators.  For those homeowners where a whole house backup generator would not be feasible, a tax credit for portable generators should be offered as well. These could help power refrigerators, freezers, a room heater, coffee maker, etc. They are much less expensive: run $400 to $1300 each. They won’t heat a house but it is an alternative.


The town, Con Ed or the county could host a day where manufacturers and related professionals could talk about options that homeowners have for units and cost effective options they could afford.


GRADUALLY PLACE WIRES UNDERGROUND--CON ED DISAGREED WITH THIS RECOMMENDATION IN A CHANNEL 11 STORY THAT AIRED ON FRIDAY NIGHT. Place wires underground (Con Ed said it would cost too much in this channel 11 news story which aired Friday night from the Edgemont section of town). However, I believe that placing wires underground gradually could work. I suggest a federal, state, county, local initiative  with homeowners who want underground wires contributing to the costs. The town currently requires underground wiring in new subdivisions.  To reduce the costs - if a local government is digging to replace pipes wires could be placed underground at the same time.  If there are more wires underground, there will be fewer outages and if there are fewer outages the outages will be repaired quicker.





Con Ed should let people know what is happening.  Crews should have GPS and Con Ed websites should show where all the crews are during restoration.  Con Ed should also, on their website, highlight where they anticipate that they will be going next and anticipated schedules for restorations.  They should explain why an area is first and why other areas are last.


REIMBURSE CUSTOMERS WHO EXPERIENCE OUTAGES FOR MORE THAN 2 DAYS WITH HOTEL, EATING EXPENSES.  Some people are luckier than others. If there are extended outages Con Ed should reimburse residents who have been suffering because of hotels and eating expenses. Some residents have been spending hundreds of dollars a day on hotels, food expenses. 


MORE SOLAR.  Promote more solar power.


HOW MANY CREWS DID CON ED HAVE 20 YEARS AGO, 10 YEARS AGO AND NOW--HAVE THEY CUT TOO MANY?  Did Con Ed have enough crews, how were they dispersed. How much time before out of state crews are called?  What is the cost of calling in out of state crews?  If Con Ed calls in out of state crews and the weather turns out not to be bad - how much will Con Ed lose in revenue?   Con Ed has been cutting back like everyone else.  Years ago they hired for emergencies but residents were angry because some of the staff was really not needed during non- emergencies.  What is the right balance?  During this outage there seemed to be fewer mutual aid than previous.  We should compare the assistance during this past storm to previous storms. 


BETTER COMMUNICATIONS AND MORE ACCURATE INFO.  Con Ed phoned residents during the storm advising that power was on when it was off. Some people had gone to hotels, left the hotel after they got the robo call, went home and power was not back on.  And, they lost the hotel room to another powerless residents.  How does Con Ed keep track of the progress and how do they report that progress within their organization and externally to the public.  Included in this is how they formulate estimates of how long someone should be without power and how reliable is the estimate.


Con Ed should provide local officials – police, fire, DPW and elected officials with up to date information so everyone knows what Con Ed is doing at any given time after a storm and where, when. 

The information Con Ed offered residents during the last storm was too general.  When someone called Con Ed in the past they had no information specific to their home or block.


Con Ed should develop a listing of cell phone numbers and robo call impacted customers via cellphone - providing them with up to date info.


PRACTICE DRILLS.  Con Ed and local police, public works officials should conduct annual practice drills for major storms - testing out communications, calling in of mutual aid.


NYS SHOULD USE MORE NATIONAL GUARD MEMBERS TO HELP RESTORE POWER QUICKER.  NY State assigned some National Guard members to the area but not enough. As part of the practice drill program listed above – the National Guard should be involved in the planning of a coordinated response to major storms and should work with local officials.


THE ELDERLY.  We need to review the policies we use for people who have life threatening illnesses.   ALSO, neighbor to neighbor checks.  For seniors who live alone, it would be helpful if a neighbors or local governments/Con Ed could check to find out whether they have food or are marooned because they cannot get their car out of the garage.


COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS STORMS.  There should be a post mortem on each storm—including audit and analysis of all extra costs expended in recent years (Sandy, Irene, etc.)  If Con Ed would aggregate all of these extra expenditures and projected future storm expenses it’s worth reviewing how else that money could be deployed.


Should we deregulate utilities—provide competition for distributing power?


OTHER INITIATIVES THE TOWN OF GREENBURGH IS CONSIDERING.  Town of Greenburgh Tree Manual – We have compiled/authored (95% complete) a tree manual of best management practices that we feel will help residents/property owners have a better understanding of tree safety, etc. The manual has a series of do and don’t practices. We feel having this on the town website would be valuable for educating residents.


TREE ORDINANCE.  Presently the Town regulates tree removals on properties greater than one acre. The benefits of a tree ordinance include an opportunity for mandating or recommending appropriate replanting (promote right tree for the right place [size/species]; expedited process for hazardous tree removal, etc.)


STREET TREE ASSESSMENT.  CD&C/DPW/Legal have discussed the need for a formal street tree assessment policy, potentially running on a 12 year cycle, for 12 sectors of the Town (using a professional Arborist – to recommend pruning or removal of trees in right of way). 


USE OF WEBSITE.  When the town website is updated we can help residents better prepare for emergency conditions prior to storms with proactive information.


ADVISE RESIDENTS OF SAFETY ISSUES.  There are many safety issues that come into play during and after storms.  More information could be provided to the community, helping to keep them safe.


ON A POSITIVE NOTE.  The coordination between the Greenburgh Police, Department of Public Works, Fire Department was great during the last storm. No complaints.


Any other suggestions or thoughts?  Let me know.  Email pfeiner@greenburghny.com.  I will be sharing the above with the NYS Public Service Commission, the County Executive, the Governor, NY State lawmakers, other municipal officials, members of Congress and civic leaders.  Everyone needs to work together NOW so the next time there is a storm there are fewer problems.  




Paul Feiner

Greenburgh Town Supervisor



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