After nearly two days without power, residents in Mill Basin finally had electricity restored at 11:15am this morning. Still, though residents no longer have to quarantine in their cars for air conditioning, the damage has been done to delis and restaurants.
“I have to throw it all in the garbage, all the meat, everything,” said Mohammad Ashraf, who works at Minimart on Avenue N and 58th Street. Minimart, which has been open for nearly 25 years, lost power Sunday evening at 7:30pm. “I don’t want to poison the people.”
As of Tuesday morning, 11,000 residents were without power, the bulk of them in South Brooklyn neighborhoods. Con Edison had intentionally shut off power for 30,000 residents in South Brooklyn to prevent a larger blackout.
“We saw in South Brooklyn that there was an outage to 3,000 customers in that South Brooklyn area,” Alfonso Quiroz, a spokesperson at Con Edison, told Bedford + Bowery. “We realized quickly that it was going to get larger, to about 30,000 more, so we decided to take that whole area out so that it would be faster to repair and the outage wouldn’t cascade to other areas.”
Quiroz confirmed that Con Edison has restored all outages caused by the initial heat wave Sunday afternoon, but is still working to restore outages caused by last night’s and today’s storms. Meanwhile, businesses in Mill Basin are trying to bring back customers.
“I don’t know what to do,” said Ashraf. “I don’t know where to start.”
Though Minimart’s lights came back early Monday morning, the refrigerator storing all chilled inventory is broken, as well as some fridges in the front. Others started working again last night at 5:30pm. Ashraf estimates that repairing the refrigerators will cost him at least $2,000.
“I have no choice,” said Ashraf. “I have to fix it.”
The business lost from not serving bacon, egg and cheeses to his regular array of customers will cost him even more money. “In the morning, people come here for the breakfast,” said Ashraf. Ashraf begins working at Minimart at 5am. By 6:30am, customers are usually already in for a bagel. “Maybe five or six come already for the breakfast. I tell them, ‘Sorry, I can’t.’”
Similar stories of vacant refrigerators and lost inventory can be found in other delis in the neighborhood. “I lost staff, food because there was no power,” said Mohamed Bellale, who works at 7 Stars Deli and Grill on Avenue N and 54th Street. There’s a sign atop the refrigerator promising new Boar’s Head meats but, like Minimart, the fridge is empty. Though he says he still has to come up with a full estimate, Bellale says the lost inventory is at least $1,000. Bellale has lived in the neighborhood for three years and says he’s never seen an outage like this.
Residents in Mill Basin were appalled at the length of the blackout. Some say it exemplifies Con Edison’s lack of concern for working class Brooklyn neighborhoods.
“I don’t know what we can do with Con Ed,” said Ruth, who declined to give her last name. Ruth has lived in Mill Basin since 1991. The power outage prevented her from using her sump pump to get water out of the basement during storms last night and this morning. “The power companies are not improving anything and we have more people coming into the neighborhood.”
Last week, 77,000 Con Edison customers lost power in Midtown Manhattan– over double the amount of customers lost in South Brooklyn. Power was restored in hours.
“They know there are poor people around here, they don’t care,” said Ashraf. “Rich people over there, they make a call? They’re running left and right.”
Eddie, a longtime Mill Basin resident who declined to give his last name, spent Tuesday morning asking neighbors to call Con Edison to get power back sooner. He and his wife had been calling the company since Sunday.
“When Manhattan had their outage a week ago, the next day they were perfect, 100-percent backup,” said Eddie. “I guess if you have money or you live in a ritzy neighborhood, it’s different.”
The last blackout Eddie witnessed was Superstorm Sandy. His home was without power for days. “Every time there’s a storm, Sandy or any other kind of storm, or a heat wave, the power on this block always goes out,” said Eddie. “Another time there was a snowstorm, just a regular snowstorm. A tree fell on the power lines and it took them three days or more to get the power on. And we called, and we called and we called. For some reason, this block gets no response. This block is like the forgotten zone.”
Nonetheless, Con Edison says the Midtown power outage can’t be compared to the outage in South Brooklyn.
“Midtown wasn’t due to the heat,” said Alfonso Quiroz of Con Edison. “Midtown was a completely separate issue. A piece of equipment did not work so it was different. It was two different things. That could happen in the middle of the wintertime.”
Con Edison says the outage in Brooklyn was actually restored very quickly. Had the power not been proactively taken out for those thousands more residents, it would’ve taken longer to come back. “The outage could’ve grown in size and it would’ve taken much longer to restore,” said Quiroz.
Quiroz says the power was taken out for more residents in South Brooklyn because the outage had been spotted there originally. He denied that the outage had anything to do with the demographics of South Brooklyn.
Like business owners, residents are coping with the cost of the outage as well. Eddie also says the outage would cost him close to $1,000. “I’m pretty confident that we’re not going to see it,” said Eddie. “We’re not going to get nothing back. Everybody said they called and asked for a refund. They said, ‘Oh, you got to give us receipts.’ Who saves receipts for food you had in your refrigerator a week?”
As of 1:43pm on Tuesday, there are still 2,367 customers without power in Brooklyn, and 3,229 citywide. According to Quiroz, these cases were all caused by thunderstorms. Con Edison says customers can expect to have power back by 11p.m. tonight.