8 THE QUEENS COURIER • JULY 25, 2019 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Astoria community speaks out against Con Edison’s rate hike
BY MAX PARROTT
Members of the Democratic Socialists
of America had been working for months
with Councilman Costa Constantinides to
organize a forum to give public testimony
on Con Edison’s 2020 rate hike that would
rake in $695 million for utility company,
but the stakes signifi cantly increased with
the blackouts in Manhattan last week.
Th en came the outages in Brooklyn and
Queens over the weekend, with more to
follow in southeast Queens that night.
“Leave it to DSA: Th ey’re so forward-thinking
Photo by Max Parrott/QNS
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they plan an event around Con Ed
even before the blackout,” Public Advocate
Jumaane Williams joked at the forum.
At the hearing on Monday night at P.S.
122 in Astoria, Constantinides and the
DSA Ecosocialist Working Group set an
immediate goal of putting pressure on
the Public Service Commission (PSC),
the state entity in charge of regulating
and overseeing Con Edison, to stop the
But throughout the testimony, a more
ambitious theme emerged: public power
Th e majority of the speakers called to
replace Con Edison with a public entity.
And it turns out that they’re not too far off
from the messaging of Governor Andrew
Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Earlier
that day, both executives suggested that
the recent spate of service failures had put
Con Edison’s contract with the PSC on the
Constantinides framed the rejection of
the rate hike as the fi rst step down the
path toward transferring New York City’s
utilities to public control.
“Th is is going to take a lot of coordination
with the state. We’re going to have to
work very closely with my state colleagues
and getting the PSC to recognize this is a
real problem. And not grant this rent hike,
number one,” Constantinides said.
Th ose who testifi ed, comprised of DSA
members, representatives of environmental
groups and Astoria residents, said that
Con Ed’s proposed rate hike represented
an investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.
Th ey worried that the income from
the hike would pay for new gas lines that
would bond the city to fossil fuels instead
of investing in renewable energy.
As evidence, DSA member Amber
Ruther pointed to Con Edison’s payment
of $1.4 million in dues to trade associations
like the American Gas Association
that lobby against renewable energy
Con Edison responded that they are
working on clean heat and energy savings
options like geothermal heating, but
in the meantime they have over one million
customers to serve until such alternatives
Several other speakers cited CEO John
McAvoy’s $8 million income as indicative
of the company’s priorities.
“Th e goal to fi nd profi ts in the short
term leads Con Edison to make decisions
that are squarely against the public interest,”
said DSA member Chris Gentry.
DSA member Charlie Heller made the
connection between the recent outages as
a result of the company’s profi t motive. “A
more proactive maintenance plan to prevent
our city’s frequent transformer fi res
and pipe explosions, while leaving ailing
equipment which is sometimes literally
over 100 years old ... is more profi table,”
Con Edison claims that it routinely
invests over a billion dollars a year in
maintaining and upgrading the system.
“Especially when you’re paying dividends
out to shareholders, those should
be reinvested in the community. Th e
whole notion that we have a public utility
that is giving out private dividends is a
bad model,” Constantinides said.
While Constantinides admitted that it
will be a long fi ght ahead to push the PSC
to consider creating a public entity, he was
heartened by the community support he
saw at the hearing.
“It’s pouring outside in 95 degree heat
and we have over a hundred people here.
Th is just struck a chord. Folks here tonight
came from all over the fi ve boroughs to
speak their minds that we deserve better
than Con Edison,” Constantinides said.
Con Edison responded to the criticism
by claiming that its service is “the
most reliable in the nation by any objective
“Con Edison is one of the state’s largest
employers and taxpayers; the company is
the largest property taxpayer in New York
City,” its spokesperson wrote.
A transcript of the evening’s testimony
will be submitted into the PSC record on
Con Ed’s rate case.
Small business in Jamaica uses blackout as a ‘teachable moment’
BY BILL PARRY
As the blackout descended on southeast
Queens last Sunday evening, Dawn
Kelly was closing Th e Nourish Spot, her
health food restaurant and juice bar on
Guy Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica.
Kelly headed to her home around the
corner without the same concerns that
so many other restaurant owners fear
during a blackout.
“I didn’t let it aff ect my business at all,”
Kelly said. “Actually I had a banner day
Sunday because I spoke at my church on
Saturday, and all of the ladies came down
to Th e Nourish Spot aft erward and pretty
much bought me out.”
Aft er failing to be profi table when she
fi rst opened in 2017, Th e Nourish Spot
turned a profi t in 2018 aft er friends tried
to discourage Kelly from starting her own
company, fearing that the neighborhood
would not support a health food business.
Last April she proved them wrong
by beating out a million entrepreneurs
around the country to win the U.S. Small
Business Administration’s Microbusiness
Person of the Year for 2019.
“I spent Monday morning replenishing
inventory instead of throwing it out,”
Kelly said. “I had to throw away some
non-dairy milks and some of my juice
blends. Even the ice in my small freezer
Instead, Kelly was able to use the blackout
as a teachable moment for her staff ,
which is made up of youth from the
neighborhood. Th e youth got summer
jobs at Th e Nourish Spot through the
Child Center of New York and the city’s
C-CAP program, which prepares more
than 2,000 students for careers in the
restaurant and hospitality industry.
“Th e city pays them but we train them
in the culinary arts, hospitality, customer
service and general life skills,” Kelly
said. “For most of them it’s their fi rst job.
We are so glad to be a culinary training
ground and a community worksite where
these kids can see someone who looks
like them owning and running a business,
learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship
and learn team building.”
One of her workers from the Summer
Youth Employment Program proved to
have valuable knowledge following the
“So we had virtually no interference
from the blackout and it gave them
more experience,” Kelly said. “Except for
Maya. She was already familiar with the
Department of Health rules and regulations
and knew what should be tossed.
All in all, the neighborhood was back
online but it was a but quieter than
normal. I had less walk-in business on