2019-03-13 / Features

Astoria Civic Association’s March Meeting

BY THOMAS COGAN


(L. to r.): Astoria Civic Association Executive Chair Peter Vallone, Sr., Con Edison Director of Regional and Community Affairs Carol Conslato, ACA President Elizabeth Crum, Psy.D., and Con Edison Director of Media Relations Mike Clendenin. Photo D.A. Luhmann (L. to r.): Astoria Civic Association Executive Chair Peter Vallone, Sr., Con Edison Director of Regional and Community Affairs Carol Conslato, ACA President Elizabeth Crum, Psy.D., and Con Edison Director of Media Relations Mike Clendenin. Photo D.A. Luhmann At its March meeting, on Tuesday, March 5th, the Astoria Civic Association had a fair amount of information to pack into its self-assigned meeting time of one hour. There was a report on the Con Edison explosion, which may have given many city residents an additional holiday display just after Christmas and which was explained to those in attendance to give them some understanding of why it happened. There was also a report about a police officer who gave aid to a motorcycle rider who’d been hit by a truck, and an announcement about candidates to be this year’s officers and board members.

Explaining the Con Ed mishap that occurred the evening of Thursday, December 27th were Con Edison Director of Regional and Community Affairs Carol Conslato and Mike Clendenin, also of public affairs. The outage and subsequent light show that amazed and no doubt frightened many residents in Queens and Manhattan and anywhere else the illumination could reach, happened shortly after 9:00 pm at a Con Ed substation along the East River.


Astoria Civic Association Past President Paul Havatzis and friends, at the ACA March meeting. Photo courtesy Paul Halvatzis Astoria Civic Association Past President Paul Havatzis and friends, at the ACA March meeting. Photo courtesy Paul Halvatzis Conslato explained that a substation takes high voltage from generating stations and lowers it, or steps it down, for widespread distribution. That evening at 9:12 pm, the substation’s voltage monitor was struck with an electrical arc and the tremendous energy could not be relayed for reduction. The normal period for the opening and closing function between generating station and substation is 20 seconds, but that evening it was delayed for about four minutes. She said the electrical arc then “went to ground” and was extinguished.

The transmission dip caused flickers in several parts of Queens. Hospitals turned to backup generators and LaGuardia Airport needed its backup energy also. She said that fire engines showed up at the substation and were gratefully received though there was no fire to put out. Even better, there were no injuries beyond that of a worker who got blinded by the light temporarily but was given eye drops and reportedly recovered.

Conslato repeated the nickname that was quickly created for the mishap when she said she was surprised by international coverage of the “Astoria Borealis.” She said she saw it reported on CNN. Clendenin was at home in Hollis Hills, well to the east of Astoria, but he said he did see the flash in the sky and believed it was indeed coming from a power facility in Astoria. Some 20 minutes later he got a phone call confirming it. He recalled the explosion and light show at a power station in Manhattan, October 29th, 2012, during the Sandy superstorm, finding the Astoria incident more spectacular.

When questions came up, the first was about ozone, which the speaker said often forms during accidents like this one. Conslato said she didn’t know if anyone had measured for the presence of ozone after the accident, but would find out and get back to the inquirer. To a question about Con Ed’s interest in solar power, she said that the company is the second largest solar farm owner in the United States, behind NextEra Energy Resources, which is New York-based with farms in Florida.

Conslato’s description of what went wrong was simplified for the listeners’ and her own benefit, she said. She reasoned that engineers explained it to her till she got lost in the technology and her listeners probably would have been similarly bemused.

To someone who complained that security must be lax, she said security cameras and an intense cybersecurity program provide safety and sometimes spot and deter such wanderers as drones. She said there are armed guards, but they are present only at headquarters offices, something the inquirer already knew; having them at the substation is no longer necessary.

She had news about “smart meters,” which will be in use for the first time this summer. She said that when they are installed in homes throughout the city, Con Ed customers will be able to manage their energy use and save on electric bills. How that will be possible remains to be seen and understood. Installation in all the homes of Queens should take three years to complete.

John Pellitteri, the association’s sergeant-at-arms, came to the lectern to cite 114th Precinct Patrol Officer Nancy Kaur for meritorious and possibly life-saving service on Saturday morning, February 2nd, at a time she was off-duty. While driving, she saw a woman and a motorcycle lying beside the highway. She subsequently found out that the woman and the bike had been struck by a tractor-trailer that had left the scene, but her first realization was that the woman was seriously injured.

The woman told her one of her arms was in pain. When Officer Kaur cut the sleeve of her jacket she saw a deep cut and rapid loss of blood. She stanched the wound and called Elmhurst Hospital Center requesting aid, which soon arrived. Later the officer was told that her immediate aid to the woman might well have saved her life. (She had been struck by the tractor-trailer while on her way to work—at Con Edison, coincidentally.)

Ed Babor, a nominee for the ACA Board of Directors, and former chief of staff to Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, delivered a Citation of Merit from Maloney to Officer Kaur, and Detective Monique Holly of the 114th Precinct later arrived to collect the congresswoman’s award and any other ones to deliver to PO Kaur, whom the detective trained for such duties as the officer performed by the highway in early February. Officer Kaur was not at the meeting to receive any awards there, having been slightly injured in a vehicle accident of her own!

Earlier, Babor, a past president of ACA, read the nominating committee’s slate of officers and directors for the next year. Patricia Crum, Psy.D., is nominated for president; Donna Pagano-Delaney, Luigi Farina, Linda Perno and Michael Meloni for vicepresident; Jerry Kril for treasurer; Rose Anne Alafogiannis for recording secretary; Brenda Andrle for corresponding secretary; and John Pellitteri for sergeant at-arms.

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