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O'Toole Praises 'Collective Effort' After Hurricane Sandy

The state senator accepted a commendation from the Wyckoff Township Committee Monday evening, and criticized Orange & Rockland officials.

State Sen. Kevin O'Toole was among a number of "heroes" recognized by the Wyckoff Township Committee Monday for their efforts during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Township officials officially recognized O'Toole, assemblymen David Russo and Scott Rumana, as well as the Powerhouse Christian Church and the Christian Health Care Center.

O'Toole was onhand to accept the commendation on behalf of the elected officials.

"[Hurricane Sandy] was a most tragic and difficult time for all of us and it wasn't even about me it was a collective effort," O'Toole told the assembled crowd.  

His office worked with township officials to push utility companies to restore power in Wyckoff, he said.

"Wyckoff is so well served — you've got a terrific administrator, let me tell you," O'Toole said. "Mayor DePhillips was literally calling me and my chief of staff every single few hours saying, 'We've got to get PSE&G here, get Orange & Rockland here.'"

O'Toole also prodded O&R officials, saying their performance wasn't on par. 

"We reached out to folks in Orange & Rockland that were not as cooperative as some of the PSE&G folks, but I got the CEO on the phone several times to really tell him in really stark terms some of the neglect that occurred by some of the folks at Orange & Rockland," O'Toole said.

According to the senator, some front line O&R workers passed along incorrect information, inclunding that work had been done which, in fact, had not been completed.

"I told the CEO that he had to step up the efforts, and what was being told to him by his own folks was not entirely accurate," O'Toole said.

"Beyond that, we had an outreach at the request of the mayor to have a conversation with the president of the Board of Public Utilities, Bob Hanna, and then he spoke in even starker and franker terms to the presidents of these utilities to make sure they did everything in their power [to restore power]," O'Toole said.

Mayor Chris DePhillips noted that in the run up to the storm and its immediate aftermath, "we knew we would be in a crisis," but thanks to O'Toole's "continuing support" township officials were able to keep pressure on the utility companies.

O'Toole, Rumana, Russo have been "eternal partners with us over the past several years," DePhillips said. "We saw it front and center during Hurricane Sandy."

Committeeman and past-Mayor Rudy Boonstra, who said he's known the state senator for "a dozen or more years," said O'Toole's response was typical whenever Wyckoff was in need.

"I personally would like to thank him," Boonstra said.

 

State Sen. O'Toole's comments are reprinted, in full, below:

"Thank you very much all, I'm moved... [Hurricane Sandy] was a most tragic and difficult time for all of us and it wasn't even about me it was a collective effort.

Wyckoff is so well served — you've got a terrific administrator, let me tell you. Mayor DePhillips was literally calling me and my chief of staff every single few hours saying, 'We've got to get PSE&G here, get Orange & Rockland here."

It got to the point that we literally got a meeting together with the president of PSE&G, largely at the urging of this mayor. And got them all together and said this has to be done, and in very forceful terms told the president — it wasn't just a representative, the president — that Wyckoff's people were hurting and there had to be restoration very quickly. 

On top of that we reached out to folks in New York and Connecticut for fuel, we reached out to folks in Orange & Rockland that were not as cooperative as some of the PSE&G folks, but I got the CEO on the phone several times to really tell him in really stark terms some of the neglect that occurred by some of the folks at Orange & Rockland.

Some of the front line workers were representing that there was work being done when there really wasn't, so I told the CEO that he had to step up the efforts, and what was being told to him by his own folks was not entirely accurate.  

Beyond that, we had an outreach at the request of the mayor to have a conversation with the president of the Board of Public Utilities, Bob Hanna, and then he spoke in even starker and franker terms to the presidents of these utilities to make sure they did everything in their power.

But I'm here today first of all to say thank you and recognize this governing body, this mayor, your first responders, the police and fire — it's been a collective effort. It's not done, we're just starting, everybody's hurting. The rebuilding process is going to go forward.

We have a statewide meeting next Monday in Tom's River with the senate budget committee [on] which I sit, we're going to be talking about what went right, what went wrong, some of the bills, some of the help, some of the financial aid that's going to go throughout this state.

So, hearing this and hearing some of your concerns brought by this governing body is helpful to me as I go with my fellow legislators talking about what the rebuilding process is all about.

Having said all that, mayor, I'm moved and honored, to receive that [proclamation] but it's not me, it's everybody.

You talked about the neighbors helping each other in Wyckoff, I think we all kind of feel that way. All the towns in Passaic and Essex and Morris and Bergen worked together. 

We literally had a phone conversation every day with the 15 mayors and when some of the phones were out we were text messaging, we were finding some way to have this communication and it worked out OK.

I want to thank you, mayor, for your leadership."

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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