FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Power (Outage) to the People

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.

 

 

More articles by:

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.  

Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
Franklin Lamb
Hezbollah Claims a 20-Seat Parliamentary Majority
William Loren Katz
Oliver Law, the Lincoln Brigade’s Black Commander
Ralph Nader
The Constitution and the Lawmen are Coming for Trump—He Laughs!
Tom Clifford
Mexico ’70 Sets the Goal for World Cup 
David Swanson
What Else Canadians Should Be Sorry For — Besides Burning the White House
Andy Piascik
Jane LaTour: 50+ Years in the Labor Movement (And Still Going)
Jill Richardson
Pruitt’s Abuse of Our Environment is Far More Dangerous Than His Abuse of Taxpayer Money
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
Pardons Aren’t Policy
Daniel Warner
To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer
Raouf Halaby
Talking Heads A’Talking Nonsense
Julian Vigo
On the Smearing of Jordan Peterson: On Dialogue and Listening
Larry Everest
A Week of Rachel Maddow…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ronald Reagan
David Yearsley
Hereditary: Where Things are Not What They Sound Like
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail