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Con Ed must prevent eruptions: Monserrate

After two manhole explosions rattled Queens over the past two weeks, state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst), his elected Council successor Julissa Ferreras and Democratic District Leader Daniel Dromm gathered in Jackson Heights Friday to call on Consolidated Edison to step up its monitoring efforts.

“This must end now,” said Monserrate, who sits on the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee. “Con Edison customers depend on a reliable and safe electrical infrastructure to power their homes and businesses. If Con Edison cannot live up to their responsibilities, my colleagues and I are prepared to take action and demand answers.”

Since January, there have been 40 electrical incidents reported in the city, including the explosions at 77th Street and 37th Road and at 40th Avenue and 43rd Street, Monserrate said.

Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said the number was probably accurate, but noted that the FDNY has recorded fewer manhole incidents this year than last.

The FDNY did not have those statistics immediately available.

Manhole explosions occur when the salt the city uses to de−ice the streets mixes with water and drips down on underground cables whose insulation has frayed. The salt water causes shorts, which ignite the insulation, and cause gases to build up in manholes until the pressure blows the heavy covers off.

Monserrate, Ferreras and Dromm suggested Con Ed was not putting any of the increased revenues it got from a recent rate hike into the infrastructure of communities like Jackson Heights.

“If you’re going to increase your rates, you should have safety for your customer,” Ferreras said. She and Dromm also called on the utility to send out more inspectors to areas of aging infrastructure.

Con Ed has already begun replacing older manhole covers with new, vented ones that prevent the gas buildup that causes the explosions, Olert said. He dismissed the notion that aging infrastructure was the cause of the two explosions.

“Age of a piece of equipment is not necessarily a function of its reliability,” he said. “You could even potentially have a year−old piece of equipment that might fail. That’s the nature of physics and the nature of infrastructure.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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