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Letter: Chapin Defends Town's Handling of Sandy

New Castle Councilman Jason Chapin weighs in, open to public feedback.

Letter to My Community

As a member of your Town Board, I would like to express my deep sympathy for the difficulties you have experienced as a result of Hurricane Sandy. I share your frustration at the amount of time it is taking to get us all back to normal. And, I would like to share with you what we have been doing on your behalf.

The town opened the Emergency Operations Center at Town Hall the day before Sandy hit. Supervisor Susan Carpenter, Town Administrator Penny Paderewski, Police Lt. Dan Cannon, Public Works Commissioner Anthony Vaccaro, a Con Ed liaison, and others were on hand to prepare for and deal with the aftermath of the storm. Early on Tuesday, Oct. 30, they mobilized all town resources to clear roads and to work with Con Ed to restore power to 5,900 homes and businesses. But this effort came with many challenges.

Our first challenge was to deal an unprecedented amount of destruction caused by Sandy. The overwhelming hurricane hit us as hard or harder than anywhere else in Westchester. We had to remove more than 275 trees blocking close to 200 roads throughout New Castle. Almost all of the downed trees were close to or touching power lines and the town had to wait for a Con Ed worker to be physically on site to tell us that power to the lines had been cut before any clearing could be done. Unfortunately, Con Ed provided only one crew to help us with road clearing. We immediately and continuously demanded more crews. But we were not alone in this. Con Ed provided only one crew to many adjacent towns as well.

As the major roads were cleared, we continued our effort to provide assistance to the people of New Castle. We opened the Community Center; checked on seniors and people with special needs; worked on restoring power to the schools and businesses; continued to work on opening our other roads; and arranged garbage drop off at several locations. In an effort to keep our citizens safe and informed, the Town Board and Police Department provided updates whenever new information was available.

Regarding Con Ed, they gave us only one crew for restoration the first four days. We made non-stop pleas for more crews and Congresswoman Lowey, Assemblyman Castelli, County Executive Astorino and County Legisator Kaplowitz applied additional pressure on our behalf. Eventually, we saw some progress as Con Ed increased the number of crews serving our town. Undoubtedly, Con Ed’s preparation for and response to this storm will be carefully scrutinized on both a local and state level in an effort to figure out what mistakes were made and how to improve service in the future.

I know how difficult this disaster has been on our community. The town has received hundreds of emails and calls from residents and businesses who have expressed their frustration and disappointment with Con Ed and the Town Board. I’ve read and responded to all the emails sent to me. But amidst the anger and frustration, I’ve also heard many wonderful stories about neighbors helping neighbors and that makes me very proud to be a member of this community. Moreover, town employees and our police force have done everything that was asked of them and more and I’m thankful for all that they have been doing.

Going forward, the Town will continue to work as hard and fast and long as necessary to restore everyone’s power and to clean up the mess left by Sandy. The Town Board is already looking at ways that we can better help residents, businesses and Con Ed prepared for and deal with the next calamity. In conjunction with this effort, we would like to begin a community conversation about lessons we have learned during this ordeal. Please feel free to email me at jchapin@town.new-castle.ny.us with your thoughts and suggestions.

I am in this with all of you and I accept responsibility for any disappointment you may have with the town government’s handling of this crisis. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through the process of repairing out town.

Sincerely,

Jason Chapin, Town Board Member

Roberta Douglas November 09, 2012 at 11:55 AM
The 'entitled' believe that they are immune from even the acts of nature! My thanks to those who worked long hours, under tremendous stress.
B November 09, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Roberta the "entitled" to which you refer do not believe they are immune from the acts of nature as you allege. Instead, they believe that their elected officials and electrical service providers should competently perform the jobs they are well compensated for. If holding people accountable for their actions makes one 'entitled' in your eyes, then I guess that I am proudly one of the 'entitled'.
Nora Mackenzie November 09, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Why weren't the dpw and the fire dept used to clear trees that weren't tangled in wires?
David Kownacki November 09, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I know everyone tried to do their best, but there was little coordination among those responsible for the repairs and poor communication, despite all the wonderful means available to us. Con-Ed seems to have really dropped the ball on this. David Kownacki
Dr.SusanRubin November 09, 2012 at 01:29 PM
This Frankenstorm may have done extensive damage to trees and power lines in our community, but its nothing compared to the total destruction in parts of NJ and NY. These storms and gas shortages will no doubt be increasing as climate change and resource depletion continues unabated. Add a fiscal cliff or another economic collapse like what we had a taste of in 2008 to the mix and it gets even uglier. Instead of bashing ConEd and the town board about a crisis beyond their control, perhaps its time to start talking about sustainability and resilience. Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity, Transition Town groups all over the US and the world have been forming to deal with the triple whammy of climate change, resource depletion and economic down turn. Transition Westchester is a hub in our area, there are already Transition Towns in Ossining and Hastings. I worked as one of the founding members of Transition Westchester for a couple of years, I'd be happy to meet with anyone in New Castle who is interested in learning more about how Transition works to build resilience in communities like ours.
Sam November 09, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Con Ed has been calling people with power giving them turn on dates, and people without power telling them that they do. This never happened in prior storms and it appears they have lost total control of their grid.
Tracy Hoffman November 09, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Roberta - You are rude, ignorant and incredibly uninformed. Are you a member of our community? Lives have been lost and houses destroyed. This is a generous community that always comes together to help each other. We have serious tree issues here and Con Ed continues to fail us as they have for many years, our right to be safe does not define us as "entitled"
Chapp Dad November 09, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Jason-this was an unprecedented storm and we are more fortunate than other areas that had total devastation of homes-loss of life but no excuse should be made for many instances of poor preparedness, poor coordination, poor communication, and slow response by Con Ed and our elected town leaders. The "perfect storm" was beyond our control but repair, recovery is in the control of Con Ed andTown Board. Last year we experienced an Aug hurricane- Oct Snow storm. Both caused extensive power outages due to downed trees. Communication and response time then was poor. What was done in the last 13 months to improve? -NOTHING! I had no power 5 - 6 days respectively last year futilely calling the same Con Ed numbers and notifying New Castle Board and Police. There are 100's of problematic trees all over town - how many were removed preemptively? What relationship did our town officials cultivate so that we had a better Con Ed response? Why do some towns get 2 - 4 crews while we only got 1? Why did some towns get downtown up and running a day or 2 later while we sat in the dark? It is the responsibility of our town officials to work with Con Ed to ensure our community is best served. That is why some towns get better/quicker response.“Scarsdale is in the same boat” is no excuse..Other local towns got significantly better response.We were harder hit-more closed roads. That should be reason to get MORE Con Ed Crews not less. Who but our elected officials to fight for us?
creator November 09, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Do not excuse. Dig the lines, and replace ConEd. We would never be on their priority list.
Patty K November 09, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Dr Rubin - your invitation to learn about "Transition" is of no comfort to those of us still without power! Save the touchy feely stuff for later. You are terribly mistaken if you sincerely think that this (or any crisis) is "beyond our control". A Storm such as Sandy is beyond our control but how we prepare and how respond is very much in our control. We should bash Con Ed. We pay our bills they are a private company responsible to serve their customers. At the time of this crisis it is not too much to expect accurate information, logical and thoughtful coordination, and efforts consistent with restoration. It is not too much to ask that our town leaders have a strong relationship with our electricity provider so when such a crisis hits we get more than 1 crew. We are very fortunate that we did not suffer the horrible devastation like other communities, destruction of homes, and loss of life. As customers of Con Ed and as tax payers and residents of New Castle we are within our right to expect that Con Ed to respond more appropriately and for our Town Officials to be prepared. I continue to get the same Con Ed recordings when I call and when I reach out to town officials they say call Con Ed. The Police say call Con Ed. Con Ed says there is a crew in the area- which they have been saying for 20 days! I’ll be late for your next Transition meeting – start without me.
Donald Fagen November 09, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Ms. Mckenzie, the Chappaqua FD received literally hundreds of calls during Sandy, and those calls, which relate to the safety of human beings, have to be answered. Do you really think that it would have been a good use of their time to send their trucks out to remove trees instead of responding to car accidents, carbon monoxide leaks, structure fires, etc?
Donald Fagen November 09, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Dr. Rubin, I agree with the factual part of your note, but I take issue with your statement that "These storms and gas shortages will no doubt be increasing as climate change and resource depletion continues unabated". If you read the business section this week you would find that gas reserves were actually UP this week. THe gas "shortages" you referred to were caused not by asset depletion but by the inability of gasoline to be delivered to where it was needed and/or the inability of many dealers to have electrical power to run their pumps. Secondly, can you prove that "these storms" are being caused by "climate change?"
David Kownacki November 09, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Replacing Con-Ed is not in the cards. Putting the lines in the ground would help a lot to prevent future problems, but I am not sure how that could be forced on the utility. I am sure they will allege many reasons whey that can't be done. I lived in Croton for 8 years and had only 2 or 3 blackouts the whole time because the lines were in the ground. My friends over there got their power back pretty quickly after this storm. David Kownacki
Naomi Marrow November 09, 2012 at 03:27 PM
The town did a wonderful job preparing for and then coordinating recovery of services. My only recommendation going forward is to work aggressively between storms to strengthen the town's relationship with Con Ed. As importantly, as residents, we do have to recognize that the changing climate (probably to some significant degree a result of the choices we make about how we live) will cause an increasing and more severe number of disruptive and dangerous storms. We need to take concrete steps quickly to address ways to lessen our negative impact on the planet and use our influence more broadly in the region and nation.
creator November 09, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Replacing ConEdison is possible. We need a will to not continue their license, instead of talking about it. All my friends with underground cables never lost or get power by last Saturday. ConEd f@.. us every storm. How many times we need to realize it? Our government has fail too. I am not blaming them but just concluding. Opening "Emergency Operations Center" is not a plan, they should be working every day during the year to be ready for any disaster. They have no clue what does it mean to be prepared.
Lori November 09, 2012 at 04:14 PM
You are seriously uninformed and clearly have not been following this. This travesty was not an act of nature, this was a failure of epic proportion on the part of con edison to adequately plan for and remedy a situation. It has been greed and unions that have caused the issues here. Not nature. An act of nature is when a storm surge washes a home on the New Jersey shore into the ocean, and nothing can be done. And everyone here feels so much for our neighbors to the south who truly have been victims of acts of nature. Here we are victims of incompetence, and that incompetence has prevented our community from actually helping people who did suffer loses through acts of nature. The act of nature defense isn't going to work in this forum, or in a court of law later. It was, and continues to be, corporate and union driven reckless disregard for human life. BTW if you have a stroke, make it to the hospital, but die in the waiting room because the hospital was understaffed and nurse failed to triage, is that an act of nature?
Lori November 09, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Dr Susan -- I'm a big supporter, but your timing is off. Business week got the cover right with "ITS GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID." I've been ringing that bell for years, and because my house has all all its green stuff (foam insulation, radiant, high efficient boiler, etc) we are able to stay pretty warm and use very little fuel for a generator. But this was a enormous failure on the part of the utility and the town for relying on the utility,. How can we expect leaders to implement the sweeping changes needed to confront the issues of global warming (not going to call it climate change -- thats a lame compromise term), resilience, and sustainability, when they can't even get power back under the existing system,
David Kownacki November 09, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Lori, I agree with most of what you say. However, I think the problems with Con-Ed are based on the nature of public utilities. They are set up with much government support that essentially guarantees a profit, but the company does not have to answer to the voters, as politicians do. Essentially, they can get away with inefficiency, as we have seen, and there will likely be no consequences beyond people and politicians yelling at them. I am not aware of any problems caused by the union for these workers. Based on my limited experience, they seem to work pretty hard once they get directions from management. David Kownacki
Lori November 09, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Seriously? Even the town admits it didn't do an adequate job. And strengthen the relationship with con edison? I cannot even respond to that suggestion in this forum, because any response would contain lewd and inappropriate suggestions -- because short of anything along those lines, I honestly cannot figure out what you mean? The governor said con ed's performance was a FAILURE. What universe are you living in?
Lori November 09, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Mr Chapin's letter did not seemed to be accurately headlined, as he did not seem to be defending the town's handling of Sandy. He explained what was done, and then said he takes responsibility for any "disappointment" with the town's handling of this matter. It just did not seem defensive to me -- and for anyone who has read my posts, I'm not a big defender of the town. But true is true. The letter did not seem to be a defense, or defensive, to me.
Lori November 09, 2012 at 04:37 PM
David, I agree with much of what you say regarding the nature of utilities. Nevertheless there have been numerous instances of union interference: Electrical crews and truck deliveries of transformers from out of state arriving before the storm were turned away if the refused to join con ed union; because of con edison union rules, out of state crews must stop work at 9 pm; because of anger last july during contract negotiations, when out of state workers filled in for striking con ed workers, the union is demanding that all out of state crews to accompanied by a con ed supervisor, thus many of us have seen out of state crews ready for work just sitting waiting for their con ed baby sitter. These are just a few examples.
Lori November 09, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Creator - yup. What the heck is an "Emergency Operations Center" and what exactly did there. Supervisor Carpenter -- "lets have a meeting to discuss convening a conference where we can break off into working groups where we can meet about forming committees to meet about meeting with other similarly situated entities to form a group to to initiate reaching out to the power providers in a conference setting to spearhead . . . BLAH BLAH BLAH"
Donald Fagen November 12, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Monday November 12. 7:00 am. 300 Chappaqua families still without power.

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