By Robert Kroll
My trial by fire as a co-op building super came within days of moving into our cozy studio apartment on Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights. My apartment looks onto the street through four tall picture windows, unobstructed by utility poles and the attendant wires. Or at least so I thought. Fact was, there was a single wire bisecting my windows, looping like a double-Dutch rope directly in my view of the otherwise perfect imitation of Sesame Street.
“The electric and phone cables on our cul de sac are otherwise underground,” I humphed. “What is that hanging wire?” On closer inspection I saw that the wire was attached to the top of a streetlight pole to the west, then draped over a tree limb, past my windows and down into the cellar of a neighboring townhouse to the east. What to do?
FIRST: Call 311. After I described the apparent fire hazard, in moments three fire trucks showed up on the scene. Five head-scratching firefighters were our first responders. They gazed up at the wire and the light pole, and down at the exit point into the subterranean mystery pit. “This looks like utility theft,” said one. “We’ll report it to ConEd.” The firefighters promptly departed.
SECOND: Write to the neighbor into whose townhouse cellar the wire travels. The letter was non-accusatory. It questioned what the neighbor was planning to do about the hanging eyesore. The neighbor said he had been trying for months to get ConEd out to complete their work, to no avail.
THIRD: Call ConEd and complain. They conceded there was a wire and noted that its removal was a “high priority” for them. They did nothing. Two weeks went by. I stewed.
FOURTH: Ask seasoned local kvetches what they would do in this situation. My most seasoned friend suggested I contact my local neighborhood council member. In my case, that’s Stephen Levin of District 33, which covers the waterfront, literally, from Boerum Hill to Greenpoint, and everything in between. This must be da place! Fergetaboutit.
FIFTH: Back to 311. How does a citizen complain about a monopolistic, untouchable public electric utility in this city? You contact New York State Public Service Commission, Office of Consumer Services, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350, phone: 518-473-0229, according to 311.
SIXTH: The state utility commission’s citizen complaint form is at http://www3.dps.ny.gov/ocs/itgate.nsf/(webDPS_welcome)?OpenForum. That form is for gas and electric customers only, but if you’re complaining about gas or electric, this commission apparently has the utility companies by the monopolistic balls. No sooner did I file my PSC complaint than a very worried-sounding ConEdder called begging forgiveness and saying they were going to solve my problem immediately if not sooner. Two days later, a ConEd digging crew was in front of my neighbor’s house digging up asphalt to reach and reconnect a damaged underground electric cable.
Dangling cord disappears. Super Hero to the rescue. Case closed. Aw, shucks, Lois. ###