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New Hyde Park Mayor’s Message: LIPA and Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Mayor Daniel Petruccio offers remarks on village and LIPA response to Hurricane Sandy.

New Hyde Park Mayor’s Message: LIPA and Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

The following are the opening remarks of New Hyde Park Mayor Daniel Petruccio made during the public meeting of the New Hyde Park Village Board on Nov. 8, 2012:

In the wake of what we’ve experienced in the last two weeks I just wanted to make some comments that I don’t usually write down.

I would like to open the meeting by taking a moment to extend my thanks and appreciation to several people who demonstrated a commitment to this community that far exceeds their job description.

Over the last two weeks Tom Gannon and Sean Murphy have made the restoration of this village their top priority, in many instances putting our residents’ needs before that of their own families and their own homes. By the proper deployment of men and resources Tom and Sean were able to accelerate the removal of over 80 trees that fell within our one-square mile village. This was accomplished by augmenting our personnel with several tree-removal firms that provided the much needed equipment and support to guarantee a speedy process.

In the true spirit of the phrase “public service,” I’d also like to commend our deputy mayor who became the de facto emergency response coordinator for the village. He immediately upon the beginning of the storm began an assessment of the damages in the community and proceeded to prioritize the responses in order of need and danger. He put his full-time job on hold and made the village his overriding priority. Each day presented a new set of challenges and deputy mayor Lofaro was often one step ahead. His anticipation and adaptability helped to shave several days off the clean-up schedule. His evident empathy for those residents in distress was inspirational to those of us that had the privilege of working side by side with him.

Our office staff was amazing, in some cases working without heat at village hall in order to be a face and a presence for village residents in need of assistance. Eileen, Janet and Dawn were phenomenal in spite of the fact that they were all dealing with the personal circumstances of no heat or electric in their own homes and in some cases tremendous damage to personal property.

I also have to mention in particular the work done by Debbie in the department of public works. Leaving her own children in the dark on the night of the hurricane in the capable hands of her husband she came to village hall to man the phones throughout the night of the storm, helping us to begin our assessment process and aiding Tom Gannon in his efforts.

Larry Montreuil was also on the scene during the first hours of the storm helping to coordinate efforts with Tom Gannon and his crews. He made numerous phone calls attempting to get us assistance and the necessary resources to tackle the storm.

In spite of the fact that his own home had no power and his ability to travel through the village was hindered by the number of downed trees and branches, Don Barbieri was in constant contact and actually manned the village offices for several days with John Jugelski, in the dark and the cold.

We faced an additional challenge in successfully having to relocate the village offices and phones to an auxiliary site. we actually were able to secure an office in the New Hyde Park Inn; they had power, phones and internet. They offered us a space to work out of. Most residents had no idea that when they called and the phone response was “Village of New Hyde Park,” that we were working in a satellite office. We were able eventually to move our operations down to the village garage where we had a generator and lights throughout the storm. The only thing we were missing was phone service which is why we didn’t go directly there. Once that was restored we were able to fully mobilize down at the garage. We actually moved the server from the computers from village hall to the the garage and then back to village hall within a span of about 36 hours.

For me the true unsung heroes of this natural disaster in the village were the men who work in the department of public works. They worked two straight weeks without a day off and managed to clean the streets of trees and debris all while making our regular garbage pick-up. Getting a chance to spend some time in their presence during this storm was an honor and a pleasure. At the end of their work day when they dragged themselves into the garage to assess the day they were physically and emotionally exhausted and the only thing I could offer them was my thanks and admiration on behalf of the residents. When we asked the nearly impossible of them they responded by doing the impossible. They are truly the “pride” of New Hyde Park.

In spite of all of our best efforts there are still a number of residents in the village who have not had their power restored as of this evening. This 11 day stretch of time is simply unfathomable. The level of frustration that our neighbors have felt and expressed is only surpassed by this board’s frustration. Aside from daily conference calls with general assessments of the overall status of Nassau County; there was no LIPA initiated contact with the village officials or supervisors. Any information or responses that we received were as a result of our persistence and initiative. Tom Gannon made daily trips to the sub-stations to beg, borrow and plead to get LIPA to release crews to work with our crews. The remaining seven trees in the village and various large branches could not be touched until LIPA certified that the power was cut or that the wires were no longer live. The monolithic cluster fudge that we call LIPA could not have handled this any worse than they did. They were quick to spew numbers and statistics, but for those of us in the middle of it, we saw the inefficiencies and mistakes first hand.

One anecdote will serve to demonstrate my point. During the storm we got the word that LIPA had released a “team” from Florida to clear two trees on South 8th Street. We raced over to the location to find a “team” consisting of 4 bucket trucks and two additional support trucks along with between 17-20 workers focused on the removal of one tree.

When it was suggested that they could be more effective if they sent each bucket truck with a number of workers to other sites, effectively creating 4 teams, we were told that they had only one ticket for this “team” to remove the two trees on South 8th street. An absolute waste of valuable technically equipped manpower. Once those two trees were removed they went to their next ticket call which took them out of the village.

Several residents have asked us about what type of pressure we are putting on LIPA. The part-time mayor of the one square mile village has absolutely no leverage with regards to LIPA. In daily phone conferences with County Executive Mangano and the communications and news conferences with Governor Cuomo, this is the number one issue raised by the members of the NCVOA, that’s the mayor’s association of Nassau County, the village official’s association. This is where the most effective pressure can come from.

Our best results have actually come from avoiding the bureaucratic mess at the top and working directly with the personnel in the substations; them men actually in the thick of it, so to speak. This is what we will continue to do until all our residents have their service turned back on. One of the most insightful comments throughout this whole ordeal – one of the few insightful comments I might add – was echoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo when he said that regardless of the statistics and the numbers that indicate success, the only words that matter to a resident is “my power is back on.”

Until every resident of the village can speak those words, my prayers and sympathies and I’m sure the board’s, go out to the families who have suffered through this trying experience. These are my neighbors, my fellow workers and my friends and my fellow board members.

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