(NEW YORK) — New York City is facing “Russian roulette” with future power outages, the governor warned Monday in the wake of this weekend’s massive blackout that left a swath of Manhattan in the dark.
“Blackouts cannot happen. They cannot happen in the city of New York and they can’t happen for no reason,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told WNYC Radio’s Brian Lehrer on Monday. “We were lucky that nobody died.”
The five-hour long Saturday night outage impacted 73,000 customers in midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side, trapping people in elevators and on subway trains, blacking out Times Square and leaving New Yorkers sweating in their apartments. All systems have since been restored.
While officials said no injuries or hospitalizations were reported, Cuomo called the blackout “a serious public safety risk.”
“People could have died, there could have been chaos, could have been looting,” Cuomo told WNYC.
A cyber-attack was ruled out, but the cause of the blackout remains unknown. Cuomo said he’s launching an independent investigation.
“When I was there with Con Ed once the power was restored, I debriefed and toured the facility. But I want an independent investigation to determine what happened,” he said. “Because it can’t happen again.”
Cuomo said Con Edison was preaching patience after the blackout hit, but the governor said, “With public safety, we don’t have to be patient, we shouldn’t be patient.”
“We need performance, we pay Con Ed,” Cuomo told WNYC. “When people get their bills, they can’t say to be patient. This is a vital service they’re providing. That’s why they’re regulated. That’s why it’s a public utility. If they do not perform, they can be replaced.”
“Con Ed has the attitude of too-big-to-fail banks,” Cuomo continued. “This is a franchise, this is a license. This is not a God-given right, and if they don’t perform well, they can be replaced.”
As a utility in New York State, Con Ed is regulated by state government.
Con Ed President and CEO John McAvoy said Sunday it will take time to determine what caused the outage.
McAvoy said demand was not a root cause and he does not believe the age of the equipment contributed to the failure.
Con Ed said in a statement Sunday that the company “sincerely regrets the power disruption” and “will be conducting a diligent and vigorous investigation to determine the root cause of the incident.”
“Over the next several days and weeks, our engineers and planners will carefully examine the data and equipment performance relating to this event, and will share our findings with regulators and the public,” the company said. “We applaud the work of all emergency responders and our employees who helped restore power swiftly and keep the public safe. We also commend the patience and understanding of all New Yorkers who remained calm and poised during this incident.”
Meanwhile, when the blackout hit, New York City Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill de Blasio was campaigning in Iowa.
“You have to be in charge wherever you are… I was in touch with my folks to make sure that things were being taken care of,” the mayor told reporters on Sunday.
“I was waiting to understand what was going on,” he said. “On a Saturday evening, it was a long travel so I couldn’t make it back. As soon as it happened I was made aware of it and kept up to date. Once it was apparent the outage was continuing, I came back.”
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