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
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail