Gjonaj calls for NYC to study moving power lines underground

Councilman Mark Gjonaj
Photo courtesy New York City Council

In the midst of this season’s first heavy snowfall, east Bronx councilman Mark Gjonaj is calling on the city to study the feasibility of moving overhead power lines underground in an effort to reduce weather-related outages.

He introduced new legislation on Wednesday which would give city officials a six month window to present options for burying all existing above ground power lines across the five boroughs.

After the councilman said that not executing this literal shift in power is “indefensible,” Gjonaj cited the specific number of power outages by boroughs in previous Tropical Storm Isaias: 22,700 in the Bronx, 50,000 in Queens, and over 10,000 in Brooklyn.

“After the Blizzard of 1888, the city began to relocate above ground electrical wires underground, well at least it did for Manhattan. Now, one hundred and thirty-two years later, outer-borough residents are still forced into a guessing game before every storm, wondering if they’ll have electricity. This is unacceptable,” he said.

“Outer-borough residents’ food spoils no different than it does in Manhattan. The dangers of power outages are just as real in Pelham Parkway, Bronx as they are on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.”

The councilman’s bill specifies data to be studied including the number of outage impacted households by borough, average length of outages, cost to restore service, estimated cost for “undergrounding” existing above ground lines and to list neighborhoods where undergrounding isn’t possible with an explanation.

“After the city presents its findings, we will work to implement a plan to update the power grid in the outer-boroughs,” Gjonaj said.

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