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PSEG employees volunteered time to help clean up the grounds of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding

Long Island PSEG employee Meredith Lewis wanted to help clean up the grounds of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, so she organized volunteer efforts to do just that.

The cleanup was part of PSEG’s Community Partnership Program, which provides sponsorship to any employees passionate about contributing within their community.

PSEG volunteers rake leaves at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding
PSEG volunteers rake leaves at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a Shoreham resident, Lewis said she wanted to help make Wardenclyffe – which has become something of an eyesore the past few decades – a place the community can go to and be proud of, especially the area that will become the center’s welcome site.

The location where Serbian-born inventor Nikola Tesla’s last remaining laboratory in the world stands was designated as a world historic site the following day, so timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Lewis and her merry band of helpers – made up of about 25 people between those from PSEG and the Tesla Science Center.

“It feels really great that people want to take time out of their personal schedules and give back to the community,” Lewis said. “We want a nice place for people to go and honor Tesla. It’s very exciting to have somebody who has such a historical significance be in our community and to be able to clean up the site, which really was a dumb beforehand, and make it what it is today. It’s nice and helps the community.”

Her volunteers rakes leaves, trimmed low brush and shrubs, cleared out vines attached to the fence that separates the grounds and the road, and got the area ready for planned irrigation in the spring.

PSEG volunteers rake leaves at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding
PSEG volunteers rake leaves at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding

Even her kids Brayden, 7, and Brooke, 5, were taking part.

Karl Sidenius, a longtime volunteer for the center, said he got involved in the effort because he was sick of seeing what had become of the property.

“I knew this had been Tesla’s lab and to drive by here every day or so and see the mess really disturbed me,” he said. “If we can get this cleaned up today, it would be a big help in maintaining the property.”

Gene Genova, vice president of the Tesla Science Center, said the help was great. Ever since the property was bought in 2013, he said, hundreds of volunteers come out to the site and help clean up.

He said there are big plans to turn the abandoned house and building on the property into a visitor’s center and a community events center, respectively.

“When we get volunteers who are passionate about helping us,” Genova said, “it furthers our cause to make things happen faster.”

 

Road work will begin in Port Jefferson and will continue for the next four months as PSEG will strengthen the area’s electrical grid. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Last month, contractors from PSEG Long Island started work on what’s planned to be an eight-month-long project in Rocky Point that will strengthen the electrical grid and harden the system to better combat extreme weather on Long Island.

The project route covers three miles along an electric main line circuit, with crews working on several streets including Hallock Landing Road and Rocky Point Landing Road.

This project is part of an ongoing effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to improve electrical infrastructure to protect against future storm damage and help restore power faster. Rocky Point is among a long list of routes being worked on in the Town of Brookhaven.

The project’s $729,000,000 in funds was secured in 2014 through an agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program, which helps communities implement hazard mitigation measures following a major disaster declaration.

The project will replace existing wire with more weather-resistant wire, install new and more durable poles in several locations, and install or replace switching equipment to help reduce the number of customers affected by an outage, according to the official PSEG website.

“By putting in the storm-hardened equipment, the stronger wires, and the more weather-resistant poles, it will help to reduce the number of customers affected during a storm,” said Elizabeth Flagler, PSEG Long Island’s media relations specialist. “So when we get the high winds, the equipment will hold up better.”

“By putting in the storm-hardened equipment, the stronger wires, and the more weather-resistant poles, it will help to reduce the number of customers affected during a storm.”

—Elizabeth Flagler

After Hurricane Sandy and the following winter storm in 2013, many of the areas being worked on in Rocky Point were among the longest without power on the North Shore — some homes were dark for up to 10 days. Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who lives in Rocky Point, experienced the extensive power outages firsthand. She said that many people will benefit when the work is completed.

“In a perfect world … we won’t experience another storm like Superstorm Sandy, and we’ll never know if this was needed,” Bonner said. “But the prevailing opinion is that there were a host of reasons why so many people were without power, and PSEG is addressing these reasons. There were major health concerns for people to not have power that long … sanitary concerns; elderly and infirmed people that needed power that don’t have generators; we have concerns with long-term use of generators; so, if we can keep the power going, it’s a good thing.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) took over his post a month after Hurricane Sandy hit. He said that in his first few weeks in office he was overwhelmed trying to recover from all of the damage it caused.

“All poles and wires were down, water was about knee high throughout all the streets, if not higher, and obviously, you want to be able to withstand the next storm,” he said.

He hopes that with these improvements, if and when a next storm were to hit, the damage would be minimal.

“The recovery time won’t be that long,” he said. “And the financial damage will be limited.”

Romaine did, however, suggest that PSEG bury wires to further minimize damage.

“Costs for burying wires is about the same that you would pay to recover from a series of storms in a 30-year period,” he said. “It’s more costly in the short run, but in the long run there’s no difference, and you will be much better protected by buried wires.”

Trees that grow near power lines will be trimmed when necessary, as they increase the chances of power outages and pose safety risks. The new poles will be about the same height as existing poles but will have a stronger base and be placed about 2 to 3 feet from the current pole locations.

PSEG representatives say that they anticipate minor traffic interruptions, as well as some localized, short-duration power outages related to the project. The crews will generally work Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with limited evening and Sunday work.

Stock photo

Long Island utility PSEG said residents across Nassau and Suffolk counties have been receiving suspicious phone calls threatening to cut their service if they don’t immediately pay bills that don’t exist.

An alert from PSEG Long Island said both residential and business customers have been receiving calls from tricksters claiming to be employees of the utility company and warning that their electric service would soon be cut if payments are not made to them the same day. Similar scams have been reported across the country, with PSEG being one of the latest to see customers fall victim to them, the utility said in a statement.

It was described as an “old scam with a new twist,” in which scammers spoof PSEG Long Island’s interactive voice response system prompt menu so that when customers call back, they are presented with an interaction that is similar to one they would receive if they called PSEG Long Island’s real customer service line.

“The scammers tell customers that, in order to avoid being shut off, they must immediately pay their bill with a prepaid card that can be purchased at many pharmacies and retail stores,” the utility said in a statement.

Dan Eichhorn, vice president of customer services for PSEG Long Island, said there were striking similarities in each of the scams.

“Scammers ask the customer to give them the number on the back of the pre-paid card and take the money from the card — usually within a matter of minutes,” he said in a statement. “This scam has affected companies across the country. We urge our customers to always use caution when making payments.”

The utility reassured that it would never force a customer to give them the number of a prepaid card, especially with such urgency. In a statement, PSEG Long Island said that suspicious residents should hang up the phone if they receive such a call and call back directly to test the validity of that call.

“When PSEG Long Island makes an outbound phone call to customers, customer-specific information is shared with the customer,” PSEG Long Island said in a statement. “That information includes the account name, address, number and current balance. If customers do not receive this correct information, they likely are not speaking with a PSEG Long Island representative.”

The number on the back of PSEG Long Island customer bills is 1-800-490-0025.

PSEG Long Island said the utility was working with local and national law enforcement to investigate the matter further and is reaching out to its contacts at local community service agencies, asking them to spread the word to their clients.

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A utility crew gets to work on Old Post Road in Port Jefferson after a storm wreaked havoc on the area. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tuesday morning’s storm literally came out of the blue. The skies were clear and calm on Monday and residents were going about their summer, as they should.

Some may have even welcomed the news of pending thunderstorms and rain — we could use the shower. But then it hit.

By the time we woke up Tuesday morning, we were reminded just how fragile our environment is. Trees were in our streets. Traffic lights had gone black. Police were scrambling to make sense of the aftermath of what was a short but intense early-morning storm filled with heavy winds, rain, thunder and, in spots, hail.

We will spend the coming days digging ourselves out, as we always do in the wake of severe weather events. But let’s not just get back to business once the roads are cleared and the traffic lights flicker green, yellow and red once more.

This was a freak weather event. We did not have the courtesy of a week’s warning as we did during storms with names like Irene or Sandy. We did not see this one coming.

And now, we are all paying for it.

We are calling on our elected officials to use this severe storm as a catalyst to catapult environmentally focused legislation and reforms.

For example, we like to talk a lot about moving our power lines underground in order to save them from toppling trees. But the price tag is usually what puts that idea right back into our political pockets, stored away for another day. Well that day is fast approaching.

This summer has already had its fair share of gentle and not-so-gentle reminders that our environment is suffering. In June, we spent weeks discussing the causes and effects of low oxygen levels along our shores that left our waterfronts riddled with dead fish. The tragic event sparked a political debate over the Island’s environmental future but, again, we still await concrete action.

We are also calling on our legislators and our readers to use this storm as a reminder to stay on top of the greenery we all take pride in. Clean up your yards and have your trees routinely inspected and trimmed to ensure they can sustain the kinds of storms that catch us off guard. We can also stock up on nonperishable foods and batteries to ease the panic in a storm’s aftermath. There is always more we can do.

It’s time we come to terms with the notion that significant action is necessary, and is worth the financial investment. One way or another, we will end up paying in the long run. Let’s start paying now instead of the inevitable next time traffic lights go dark.

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Town is exploring how to stay on while the power isn’t.

The town board voted last week to apply to the New York State Energy Research and Development for a $100,000 grant that would explore the feasibility of creating a community microgrid energy system that would link up Huntington Town Hall, the Village Green senior center and the Huntington Sewer District wastewater treatment plant.

The town will spend $7,750 to hire technical consultant TRC, based in New York, to assist in preparing the grant application by the May 15 deadline. Huntington Hospital and the Huntington YMCA could also be potentially added to the microgrid, the town board resolution said.

Microgrids are essentially self-sustaining, small electric grids with their own generation resources and internal loads that may or may not be connected to the larger electric utility macrogrid, NYSERDA’s overview of the grant program said. NYSERDA, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, said it plans to award up to $40 million under the three-stage NY Prize Community Grid Competition to support the development of community microgrids throughout the state.

“When a widespread power outage affects the town, it is important that electricity be restored to sites that provide vital emergency services,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), who spearheaded the measure, said in a statement. “Creating a microgrid linking Town Hall, the Village Green Senior Center, the Huntington wastewater treatment plant, Huntington Hospital and the YMCA could help to restore electric service to those locations more quickly. The concept certainly merits a feasibility study, which is why the town is applying for this grant.”

Electric power in the U.S., including generation and distribution systems, used to operate on a smaller scale, but over time, regional utilities were developed to deliver cost-effective and reliable water, heat, power, fuel and communications over broader distances, according to a summary of the program on NYSERDA’s website.

“These systems are, however, vulnerable to outages that can impact large regions and thousands of businesses and citizens, particularly as a consequence of extreme, destructive weather events,” the summary said. “Microgrids could help minimize the impact of these outages by localizing power generation, distribution, and consumption so that a fallen tree or downed wire will not interrupt critical services for miles around.”

During Hurricane Sandy, Huntington Town Hall lost power, town spokesman A.J. Carter said, but officials were able to get the building back running via a generator. Getting on a microgrid, he said, could help Huntington’s most crucial facilities get online faster during outages.

“Theoretically it would allow the utility to target this grid first because of its emergency nature,” Carter said.

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D), who seconded the resolution offered by Supervisor Frank Petrone, said the town’s response to Hurricane Sandy power outages was good, but the microgrid is still worth exploring.

“If we could explore the idea of being on our own grid that’s something we should absolutely look into,” she said. “The exploration and the alternate conversion are obviously two different things, because you’d have to see what it would entail and whether it’s doable.”