FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Power (Outage) to the People

by MICKEY Z.

I slept on my fire escape one night last week but it wasn’t due to martial strife or a daredevil spirit. Rather, the sight of yours truly three flights up sporting boxer shorts and a death grip on the bars came courtesy of Con Edison (with a nod to Mayor Bloomberg).

The lights first dimmed on Monday, July 17-smack dab in the middle of a classic NYC heat wave. Over the next few days, as Con Ed dangerously underestimated the number of people affected, my neighborhood of Astoria joined Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside in blackout mode. Veteran New Yorkers know the drill: flashlights, candles, food rotting in the fridge, neighbors sitting on the stoop swapping “where were you when the lights went out?” tales. But this was more than just supply and demand.

According to the New York Times, “the electrical network for the area of Queens where 100,000 people endured a lengthy blackout had the most failures of any of the 57 underground networks in New York City for the last two years.” Those failures numbered 71 in 2005 and 60 in 2004. By comparison, Manhattan’s Upper East Side experienced 40 failures last year.

It isn’t hard to imagine Bloomberg reacting with a little more fervor if zip code 10021 lost its juice. Astoria, on the other hand, was left literally and figuratively in the dark. Theories abounded but no one really knew what was going on or when it would end. Fire engine sirens sounded all through the night, darkened traffic lights made every intersection an adventure, manhole covers popped like champagne corks, but most disturbing were the smoking and burning power lines. This I had never seen. The thick black cables strung from wooden pole to wooden pole smoldered, smoked, and burst into flames as frightened residents looked on. News outlets, lulled by Con Ed’s undercount, focused instead on those without power due to a storm in well-heeled Westchester.

The New York Times also explained that several failures in the network “involved components that were 30 to 60 years old … One cable, which failed six times last year, had a 67-year-old component.” This got me thinking about Astoria’s sudden influx of yuppies. Starbuck’s, one-bedroom apartments going for $1500 a month, yoga classes, a community garden-my humble neighborhood is officially hip. So hip that my wife, Michele, wants me to get a t-shirt made up that reads: “Born in Astoria” so no one mistakes my shaved head as a feeble attempt at modish credentials. But, I digress.

Astoria’s gentrification has resulted in the tearing down of houses to be replaced by small apartment buildings. Thus, a slice of real estate that may have once housed an aging widow is now home for a dozen or so of the upwardly mobile…each with two air conditioners, two computers, two televisions, and a microwave oven. It doesn’t require genius to imagine this trend impact a 67-year-old component. But then again, no one has ever mistaken power companies or politicians for Chomsky or Einstein.

Power has, for the most part, been restored in Astoria and the surrounding burgs. Small businesses are desperately trying to recoup losses and, as they say, life is returning to “normal.” But if normal means we continue trusting those in power to do the right thing, maybe we need a new normal. If it means overusing electricity (which is generated by the burning of fossil fuels), taking for granted that lights will go on when we hit a switch, or maintaining our awed trust in technology, I’d say “normal” may be the real problem. If the Queens blackout can help us discover a more enlightened perspective, Con Ed and Mayor Bloomberg just may have done us a favor.

MICKEY Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.

 

 

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here. This piece first appeared at World Trust News.  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail