During my travels throughout the storm and its aftermath, I had the opportunity of seeing firsthand how hard our town employees worked on behalf of the residents of Yorktown, whether riding with the Highway Department while they were plowing the roads, assisting at the YCCC warming facility, working with the staff at the Town Emergency Operations Center, bringing food to residents at Beaver Ridge or observing utility crews working in the field with their assistance.
I want to thank all department heads and their workers. Most obvious, the highway and police departments. The Highway Department, under the leadership of Dave Paganelli, and with the assistance of members of our Parks, Refuse and Recycling, Water and Sewer departments, all gave maximum effort to plow our streets and clear more than 500 trees from town roadways. By the way, I now understand why nobody wanted to run against Dave Paganelli for highway superintendent.
Additionally, I want to thank the water, sewer, human resources, nutrition, refuse, parks and recreation, YCCC and maintenance for going above and beyond to keep our town operating. A special thank you is extended to Ed Mahoney and his staff, who kept our sewer system operating under very trying conditions.
The police department handled a number of situations with its usual efficiency, including directing traffic due to the many traffic signals that were without power, manning the YCCC’s warming station, operating the Emergency Operations Center, coordinating with the Department of Transportation to acquire generators for various traffic signals, conducting wellness checks, and the list goes on.
Through the efforts of our town hall and YCCC staff, police department, and Community Emergency Response Team volunteers, we were able to provide one of the few warming facilities, charging stations and overnight shelters countywide. Noreen Driscoll and Karen Perez, with the assistance of others, checked on various vulnerable seniors to make sure they were safe.
I also want to thank Stewart Glass, my executive assistant, who worked tirelessly beside me handling inquiries and status reports from town residents and businesses, relaying that information to the appropriate utility and assisting me in pressuring those utilities to respond to the needs of our residents.
My staff and our police department participated in 14 days of multiple conference calls with Con Edison, NYSEG, Westchester Office of Emergency Management and the governor’s team.
Our public officials stepped up to the plate to help in numerous ways. Our own Town Board—Vishnu Patel, Ed Lachterman, Tom Diana and Alice Roker—reached out to and assisted our residents in ways too numerous to list. Alice Roker, Diana Quast, Dave Paganelli and Police Chief Robert Noble—who with the assistance of Tom Sciangula, Mr. Video—produced several public service updates to help keep our constituents informed. At the same time, the Planning Department updated our website with vital information for those who were able to access it. Tom Diana drove up to Carmel to bring water and dry ice from NYSEG until we became a Con Edison distribution center for dry ice.
Thanks are also due to the governor’s office for supplying members of the National Guard to assist the police department; County Executive George Latimer for his work on asserting pressure on the utilities; County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, who went to NYSEG’s operations center and demanded action and then accompanied Stewart Glass to make a similar demand of Con Edison at its Westchester headquarters in Rye; and Sen. Terrence Murphy and Assemblyman Byrne, who also worked on behalf of our residents during this trying time.
The members of our community helped in so many ways: The Bagel Emporium, Starbucks, Algonquin Pipeline, Turco’s, Yorktown Pizza & Pasta, and Francesca’s Pizza all donated food to YCCC and our community’s first responders.
Eric DiBartolo and the Chamber of Commerce worked with me to provide a generator and hook up so that we were able to utilize the signage in town to alert the public of vital information during the storm and its aftermath.
The most impressive thing was seeing and hearing about our neighbors helping neighbors—people with power or generators taking into their houses the elderly, the infirm, the pregnant, people with children—to provide them shelter, heat, sustenance and company.
I have already scheduled a meeting for this week with our department heads to review all issues related to the storm response, including our own efforts and the needs of our community. Although generally I was and am very pleased and proud of our own local actions, self-examination is always worthwhile and there is always room for improvement.
On the other hand, it is painfully clear the utilities’ response was woefully deficient. First, regarding the timing and amount of assets deployed and second, communications to the public, real time progress and accurate predictions on restoration time. As you recall, we were told originally 90 percent of our constituents that lost power would get power restored by 11:45 p.m. Monday, March 5. Obviously, there was an intervening storm, but that 90 percent figure was not attained until March 10.
We acknowledge that these were unusual storms, with the first event resulting in more than 85 percent of the residents of Yorktown losing power. However, it is important that the actions of the utilities be reviewed so that in the future we can expect better results.
The New York State Department of Public Service has initiated a case to review the various utilities’ preparation and response to power outages during the March winter storms. I am asking our Town Board to join with me in intervening in this proceeding so that we may convey on behalf of our town residents and businesses the impact on them of the delayed response of the electrical utilities in preparing for and restoring electrical power throughout our town.
Lastly in that vein, I would encourage all town residents to join Nixle. It offers our police department the opportunity to notify residents through text messages important information. You can sign up for Nixle by texting your ZIP code to 888777. During these last storms, our police department was able to notify you of dangerous conditions, road closures, the opening of the YCCC warming facility, the location to pick up dry ice, etc.
One last note: Con Edison has now stated that it will provide food and medicine reimbursement for those who were without power for three or more consecutive days during the two recent nor’easters. Please visit its website for conditions and for appropriate forms. Go to bit.ly/2FD2mm8.