2006-08-02 / Features

Schumer Calls On Con Ed To Make Full Restitution

BY LINDA J. WILSON

As U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called on Con Ed to make full restitution to businesses which sustained losses in the Northwest Queens blackout (l. to r.) Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, City Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Eric Gioia, Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and two local business owners, Charles Marino of Marino's Fish Market and John Kosmidis of International Meat Market, listened. As U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called on Con Ed to make full restitution to businesses which sustained losses in the Northwest Queens blackout (l. to r.) Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, City Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Eric Gioia, Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and two local business owners, Charles Marino of Marino's Fish Market and John Kosmidis of International Meat Market, listened. Standing on 30th Avenue before one of the hundreds of businesses in Northwestern Queens suffering the effects of the blackout that afflicted some areas of Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Hunters Point for as long as 10 days last month, United States Senator Charles Schumer, along with Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and City Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Eric Gioia yesterday called for Consolidated Edison to make full restitution to the affected businesses. Con Ed has so far offered to compensate businesses up to $7,000 for losses they sustained in items such as perishable food during the blackout.

Schumer fought to get Con Ed tens of millions of dollars to help pay for infrastructure damage after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and said that now Con Ed should deliver for New York, especially since New York came to Con Ed's aid almost five years ago.

"It's time that Con Ed prove that they put their customers first," Schumer said. "For a business that was shut down for 10 days and lost food, equipment and other necessities, $7,000 will barely make a dent. When Con Ed was in need, New York and America delivered for them. It's time they do the same."

"The economy of Western Queens at this moment is hanging by a thread," Gianaris said. "Our proposal to Kevin Burke [Con Ed chief executive officer] is the least he can do to begin making up for the massive damage caused by Con Ed's blackout. Anything less continues to show that Con Ed is not interested in helping Western Queens back on its feet."

"The people and businesses of Queens desperately need help," Gioia, who represents Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island

Photo Vinny DuPre

City and parts of Astoria, all of which were affected by the blackout, declared. "Small businesses are the backbone of our city's economy, especially here in Queens, and for them, this wasn't just a loss of power, this was a loss of profit. The losses we incurred are nothing short of devastating, and Con Ed needs to step up, do the right thing and get our residents and our businesses back on their feet. Queens deserves no less."

"People lost wages, income, equipment and over a week of their lives. They stood on line like refugees waiting for necessities," Vallone said. "It's laughable that Con Ed thinks $350 for perishables is reimbursement. Both residents and businesses should be fully reimbursed. There are businesses that still haven't been able to reopen. Con Ed must be held accountable."

After the blackout, Con Ed offered business owners $7,000 in reimbursement to cover perishable goods, such as food, that spoiled during the outages, which lasted up to 10 days in some areas. Their reimbursement did not cover any other expenses incurred, such as loss of equipment and loss of business. The legislators said on August 1, when they walked along 30th Avenue and talked to business owners and residents, that instead of imposing an artificial cap of $7,000, Con Ed must allow businesses to take a thorough inventory of the power outage and give full restitution to these businesses.

Schumer added that the businesses should be able to take advantage of the available federal loan programs, but that these programs alone will not be able to meet the needs of the businesses that have lost so much. Businesses will be able to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), once the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) declares the Queens blackout a disaster. For qualifying businesses, these loans can provide up to $1.5 million for businesses that suffered as a result of the power outages, based on need and ability to get credit elsewhere. The interest rate on EIDLs cannot exceed four percent per year, and the term of these loans cannot exceed 30 years. Schumer said that while the loans were a start, they would not be able to provide businesses with what they needed to get back on their feet, since they are loans with interest, not grants. "This is Con Ed's fault, and store owners shouldn't face the prospect of more debt because of these blackouts," he asserted.

As areas of Queens and surrounding areas were declared eligible for disaster assistance today, Congressmember Nydia M. Velzquez, Ranking Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, highlighted how important relief such as the loan program is for the local impacted small businesses that are struggling to recover following the power outage. Velzquez had called on Governor George Pataki and the SBA shortly after the onset of the power outage to make local businesses that had been adversely impacted eligible for assistance through the SBA disaster loan program.

"This is an important step for the small businesses throughout the area that have endured economic hardship as a result of the power outage," Velzquez said. "SBA's disaster loans play a pivotal role in helping these small firms to recover, as well as ensuring that these local firms can achieve financial stability and future economic gains once again. For a number of these small firms, losing power for up to 10 days can result in severe economic downturns; however, access to this assistance will help these entrepreneurs to remain strong and on their feet.

"Disaster assistance is critical to a recovery, especially one that has resulted in thousands of dollars in losses for area businesses," Velzquez added. "It is my hope that the small businesses here in Queens are able to access this relief and make a full recovery following this disaster. As the lifeblood of our community, we simply cannot afford to lose the contributions and vitality they offer to our local economy."

A temporary Loan Assistance Center opened in Commerce Bank, 31-04 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria to assist local impacted businesses on Tuesday, August 1 at 10 a.m.

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