In the four weeks since doctoral student Jodi Lane was electrocuted after coming in contact with an electrified street plate in Manhattan, Consolidated Edison reports that it has found stray voltage coming from 110 pieces of electrical equipment in parts of the city and neighboring Westchester County; 24 of those potentially lethal hot spots are in Queens.
"No person should be zapped or get the death penalty for walking on a sidewalk," City Councilmember John Liu declared, and we agree. We applaud the city’s news media for keeping the situation at the forefront of the public’s consciousness and Con Ed for taking the responsibility for Lane’s death and, equally important, for immediately acting to rectify an unpardonably dangerous situation. We also applaud the City Council’s announced intention of holding hearings on utility safety practices.
We also agree with Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, who plans to introduce legislation requiring Con Ed to conduct yearly inspections of the 250,000 service boxes in its territory.
At first, Lane’s death seemed to be one more incident in a longstanding pattern—hazardous situations going unnoticed and uncorrected until someone dies or is seriously injured, followed by rectification of the one site where the problem occurs. However, this time it’s different. Con Ed is making serious, systematic efforts to find and fix potential hazards across the city—before someone else gets hurt. The utility, the Council and the Assembly are looking into ways to ensure that the electricity that keeps this city up and running stays in its conduits, cables and wires where it belongs so it can keep on powering everything from subways to street lights to computers, toasters hair dryers and the thousands of appliances we use every day.
We don’t often worry about turning on a lamp or using a microwave oven. Thanks to the efforts of Consolidated Edison and our lawmakers at City Hall and in Albany, we won’t need to worry about stepping on street plates, either. This is definitely a move in the right direction.
Jodi Lane’s death is a tragedy. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends and hope they take comfort in the knowledge that her untimely death was not in vain. Its circumstances brought about a lasting change for the better in the quality of life of the city she called home.