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Wyckoff Mayor Slams Utilities' 'Disorganized,' 'Frustrating' Response

DePhillips: "They need to explain why things are taking so long, and why things are moving at a snail's pace."

In Wyckoff, where it is estimated that more than 3,000 families are still without power Sunday, the township's mayor expressed his lingering frustration with the response of utility companies.

Anger boiled over Saturday when the New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office released a timetable revealing several utility companies' forecasts for restoring power across the state.

The township was listed on the timetable, which included only a timetable for PSE&G but not Orange & Rockland, but no restoration plans were revealed.

"This is outrageous," DePhillips said Sunday afternoon. "You can't not have crews here when people are freezing in their homes."

In an interview with Chris DePhillips Sunday, the mayor revealed that he had heard on Saturday that PSE&G had redistributed its resources to urban areas. He reached out to State Senator Kevin O'Toole that night to plead for help getting utility companies back into town, he said Sunday.

In an email obtained Sunday afternoon, Senator O'Toole's office confirmed to a Wyckoff resident conversations Saturday night between the senator and DePhillips, as well as between the senator and PSE&G Bergen County official Dave Hollenbeck.  

"Dave assured the Senator that there would still be crews in Wyckoff working to start removing trees from town so that power can be restored as quickly as possible," the email from O'Toole Chief of Staff Al Barlas read. "While this has been a slow and frustrating process, I can assure you that the coordination occurring between your Wyckoff elected officials and our office has been constant and daily. Everyone is solely focused on getting crews into Wyckoff and getting power restored."

In addition to the senator's office, DePhillips said he'd been pressing the Gov. Christie's office for further resources.

"But you have to have crews on the ground," DePhillips said. "I've been on the phone all friggin' day with these people... we're doing as much communication  as we can, [including] high-level conversations with utility officials morning, noon and night.

"The bottom line is ... this comes down to bodies," DePhillips said. "[The utiilty companies] need more crews. This is a private business and they need to staff up appropriately to get crews into our community." 

Beyond the obvious losses and inconveniences for township residents, many local stores had lost more than a week of business.

"The business losses have been substantial, DePhillips said. "It's really terribly frustrating. "

According to the mayor, utility crews had not been spotted in between last Tuesday and Sunday morning, but this may have been because of the "disorganized" utilities' reluctance to tell officials where they were operating in town. As of Sunday night, however, a number of additional restorations seem to indicate that DePhillips's persistent prodding may have paid off. 

The township provided a list Sunday of areas where power had been restored:

  1. West Main Street
  2. Parts of the Lakeview/Allison/Canterbury area.
  3. Parts of the area between Godwin Avenue, Franklin Avenue and Crescent Avenue.
  4. Parts of Sicomac area.
  5. Parts of the area between Crescent Avenue, Brookside Avenue, Franklin Avenue and Allendale border.
  6. Part of Midland Avenue/Burma and Deerfield area.
  7. The Christian Health Care Center.
  8. Parts of Franklin Avenue area from Godwin Avenue to the border with Waldwick and Barrister Court.
  9. Parts of Hickory Hill & Merrywood area.
  10. Parts of Lawlins Road.
  11. Parts of Pathway Manor/West Shore Drive area.
  12. Franklin Avenue from Godwin to Wyckoff Avenue
  13. Cornerstone Church
  14. Spring Meadow Senior Community
  15. Wyckoff YMCA

PSE&G representatives told DePhillips about 600 customers could expect to be returned to the grid between Sunday and Tuesday: 166 on Sunday, 215 on Monday and 223 on Tuesday.

Orange & Rockland township officials that

DePhillips requested representatives from both O&R and PSE&G at the Wyckoff Township Committee meeting on Monday at 7:30 p.m.  

He is requesting that the officials be on have to brief the committee and public on where they are with power restoration. 

"They need to explain why things are taking so long, and why things are moving at a snail's pace," DePhillips said.

PSE&G representatives have told DePhillips that someone will be on hand, but no one from O&R has yet confirmed attendance. 

DePhillips said that no serious hospitalizations or injuries have occurred since the storm ripped through the township last Monday. He was unsure of how many residents here had been displaced by Hurricane Sandy.

He did say, however, that there have been an increasing number of carbon monoxide calls received by the Wyckoff Volunteer Fire Department this week as residents have become increasingly dependent on gasoline-powered generators. 

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.

Gary Rabinowitz November 05, 2012 at 08:36 PM
@ "look" -- I don't follow - what did Garrett do (or not do) that led to this power outage fiasco? If you're trying to bait the political junkies (aka Crazies) to this message board, please don't. Just go to mother jones or rolling stone or free republic. Ironically, the most I've seen local utilities in the past few years has been to install pole-mounted solar panels (a power generating source). The problem in this storm has been "T&D" (transmission & distribution) infrastructure and restoring downed lines/substations. I know there's many factors to consider here, but arguably, by wasting time putting up solar panels, the utilities neglected fundamental parts of their business (getting power to homes, restoring it when down) over an uneconomic and "liberal" policy of "green energy." Speaking of the "green" agenda - I try to sympathize and practice it, but all the sudden I despise the thought of being (or trying to be) a "Tree City USA." Cheers GXR
Concerned November 05, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I placed a picture in the article in case some of you could not remember what an O&R truck looked like. I am starting to forget.
john cheringal November 05, 2012 at 10:16 PM
We need to vote them all out.
Ed November 05, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Take a look around not only our area, other storm areas and the rest of the world; after doing that, repeat the following: I FELT SORRY FOR MYSELF BECAUSE I HAD NO SHOES; THEN I MET A MAN WHO HAD NO FEET!!!!!
Jon November 06, 2012 at 12:18 AM
I hope all the people that are crying about how long it takes to get power back are prepared to pay up to have our lines buried underground or to allow power companies to at least triple their staffs to have faster recovery times...
look November 06, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Gary, that's just the point. Garrett has DONE NOTHING at All after the storm hit to assist his congressional district. Don't you think he should have at least shown some sign of support or concern?. Maybe he is counting how many Christmas trees his " farm" ( tax free business) lost so he can claim a insurance loss. As YOUR congressman, he should be in the middle of the relief effort, no matter whose fault the current mess can be blamed on. My point is that he does not care to help as he did not sign a emergency funding bill because of he felt that it could be wasteful spending. He is the wasteful one!!! Our Governor is supportive,, but Garrett is not and should be VOTED OUT.
Richard D. Cameron November 06, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Lets get the underground program going. If our leaders had made this a priority thirty years ago, the nation would have been well on its way to secure the residential electrical grid.
New in Wyckoff November 06, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Jon and Ed you must have a generator at home right? Not everybody
Concerned November 06, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Apparently a generator is a new requirement for Wyckoff homeowners thanks to O&R.
Ed November 06, 2012 at 05:07 AM
New in Wyckoff - No, I do NOT have a generator at home! What would make you think that? In case you missed the point, there are people who lost not only power but also their cars, homes and, in other storm affected areas, their LIVES!! If you didn't lose your life, you are the one WITHOUT SHOES!!! Everything else can be replaced or is an inconvenience. If you're dead, you can't replace anything!! Sorry if the saying was a bit too deep for you. As for my situation, I was without power for one week; an 85 year old lady who lives directly behind me still doesn't have power so a couple of days ago, I ran an extension cord from my house to her's so she could at least have heat.
Jon November 06, 2012 at 09:20 AM
no generator here, not yet, but I will have one, because this is not going to change,the system has to be modernized, the way we deliver and receive power can't stay the same, next big rain storm with some wind, more trees are coming down., and the wires with them....welcome to wyckoff though i hope things get better for you,
NLTITAN November 06, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Bravo Ed!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh Linda - You're really on top of things. DePhilllips said he is stepping down from being Mayor and that is why there are two seats up for election. Also, Rooney isn't such a great hero!! Did you people see the prices of other gas stations? $3.49, $3.53, etc. - Rooney $3.70. Before Sandy I haven't seen any cars in that gas station. Also, why did the public employees of Wyckoff Town Hall get gas? Some of them don't live in Wyckoff. I'll be glad when this (gas) situation is back to normal and I can get my gas in Midland Park for 20-30 cents cheaper! I try to shop locally - but locally is too darn expensive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jim November 06, 2012 at 01:27 PM
No one in their right mind gets gas in Wyckoff when things are normal. All 3 gas stations charge too much when much cheaper gas is 5 minutes away. Would be in favor of an initiative to bury the wires underground. But let's get everyone power first. And until then stop telling people not to complain about the situation but offer assistance to the less fortunate ones!
Richard D. Cameron November 06, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Eight days post Sandy. No power in much of Wyckoff, no sign of PSEG in our neighborhood either. I'm told neither PSEG nor OR showed up for at Wyckoff's town meeting last night. Who amongst Wyckoff's leadership has the necessary heft to force the utilities to begin to restore electrical service to our town?
Gary Rabinowitz November 06, 2012 at 04:40 PM
@ Richard D Cameron - short answer: no one has the authority (not sure who has the heft these days to compel attendance at a voluntary town hall meeting). THe law just doesn't work that way. If you're looking for more symbolic actions, "raising hell," "we feel your pain," etc., that's another story. In that regard, I would rely on the local people in this town: neighbors, parents, churches, first responders & local businesses. There are plenty of deficiencies made apparent by this horrendous storm, but those will be addressed in due course. Until such time, hang in there Richard, the gas lines have abated, stores are getting restocked and more people are getting electric restored. God bless, GXR
Richard D. Cameron November 06, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Hey Gary. The "bully pulpit" has been occasionally successful when used by politicians in the court of public opinion and discourse. Federal and State politicians have a larger platform than local officials but it's another tool which can be used when obfuscation, mismanagement and incompetence, in this case by the power utilities, harms the public. The fate of CPL's CEO after last year's power restoration debacle in Connecticut serves as an powerful example. Agreed there are larger issues at stake here, poor/negligent pre-storm planning by the utilities and the public's and governments failure to confront the vulnerabilities of the above-ground power grid system. Accountability of near monopolies looms large as well. We're hanging in, hoping PSEG lives up to their promises but I would not bet a farthing on that. Take care.
YCOUGHER November 06, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Eight days; not bad. Look outside Wyckoff, where people lost so much more than the inconvenience of power. "We see what we look for."
Michael Feygin November 06, 2012 at 07:27 PM
PSE&G has no estimates on restoring power to Goffle Road. Best guess is from 2 weeks to over a month at this time. Why blame the Mayor? God help us all.
Richard D. Cameron November 06, 2012 at 07:41 PM
It's not a question of "blame", it is about leadership, using every resource to ensure that the public is fully served.
Michael Feygin November 06, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Richard, I do agree with you 100% but I personally know over 20 Managers at PSE&G and no one can provide any answers. We at Bourbon BBQ had been scheduled to cater a luncheon for the PSE&G Lineman on Thursday in Caucasus but had to cancel due to lack of power, a bit ironic. There is a Hess gas station that is running with the help of a generator across the street but that is Ridgewood. Half of Ridgewood is out as-well, it's just a very bad situation that's not going to be helped by the approach of the storm tomorrow.
Richard D. Cameron November 06, 2012 at 08:28 PM
There is a CEO at PSEG where the buck stops. He's the captain of a ship which has foundered. He and his crew are the problem. They deserve our anger and contempt for their pre-storm planning and subsequent restoration mismanagement which placed lives and property at risk. Mid-level managers are clueless without instructions from those in charge.
Chris Byers November 06, 2012 at 08:35 PM
The Franklin Lakes fire department has dry ice and regular ice most nights, and are distributing it for free (for those whose freezer contents haven't yet spoiled).
Michael Feygin November 06, 2012 at 09:50 PM
You are absolutely correct!
Jackie Conti November 07, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Mr. Mayor, Many of us in Wyckoff are still without power. It is very disappointing the response to from the Township with respect to making services available to meet peoples basic needs. Communities hit far worse than Wyckoff by Sandy have put in place emergency preparedness plans to meet the needs of those without power and limited resources. The response from Wyckoff has been shameful. Where can an elderly person go for a hot cup of coffee, a place to warm up, a hot shower? Who from the community is checking in on these folks? Where is a warm shelter for those that can no longer sleep in their homes? There are folks in this community without power and limited resources and the Township has done little to nothing to help them. In the post 9/11 world, not having an emergency preparedness plan in place is negligent at best. The Township of Wyckoffs response to this community during this crises has been as underwhelming as the response from our utilitities. Get your act together! The next emergency could be much worse.
John A. Unglert November 07, 2012 at 06:08 PM
There ARE two shelters running, one at Powerhouse and one at Christian Health Care. BOTH are doing and outstanding job of it. CHCC does have overnight facilitites also. As of today 7 November 2012, CHCC will remain open until the need no longer exists. Both places have hot meals and CHCC has hot shower facilities also. There ARE resouces, and Wyckoff has been offering them and using them. Just call the Board of Health office, the WILL assist as best they can or get you inot touch with the right people. And if you need information, GO TO THE TOWN HALL !! They will give you the best help and information they have available ! OUSTANDING JOB Mr, MAYOR !!!! I have been going to the town hall every day and have seen you there every day , no matter the time, working the phones to get the power companies out and the problem areas solved. Thank you Mr. Mayor for your own sacrafice and the time away from your own family to server and protect the entire Wyckoff family.
CCG November 07, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Instead of sitting on here bashing the local government, and eagerly awaiting rebuttals, how about going around helping out citizens who are truly in need. Go down to Hoboken, send items to the Jersey Shore. Be a true Wyckoffian, or move.
John A. Unglert November 07, 2012 at 11:56 PM
BTW Jackie, the Wyckoff health Department and the WPD, BOTH, do wellness checks on all seniors each day. Had you gone to the Town Hall or even called all of those needs could have been takend care of. And I will step further into it. You could have offered your own assistance and it would have been accepted. I did and it did and I am much better person for saying to Mr. Shannon, "Give me a call if there is anything I can do to help out." I did not get to my home before the call came in and I was off. And it was worth every second to volunteer for helping out anyone who came in. And I will do it over and over if necessary. You might want to consider doing the same thing. Our Mayor, and I have seen other members of the TC constantly at Town Hall, the firehouses, with the DPW, all working the same hours and more to get Wyckoff stable and in repair. Rather than critizing you can help out and get you hands dirty and be of benefit to your Town and neighbors. You will feel better for it, I assure you.
John A. Unglert November 07, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Ph, an everyone might just take a moment to say a THANK YOU to Scott Fisher and the DPW, the firemen, the ambulance corps, the police department ( INCLUDING the disp[atchers who worked endless hours also ) and so on. We should all stop into the Town Hall and offer a thanks to Mr. Shannon and Ellieen (sp sorry if I spelled that wrong ) and to our Town Clerk, Joyce and her team. And do not forget everyone else in that building, they ALL pitched in and I am grateful for each one of them. I would hope you feel the same.
David November 08, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I have been no fan of the mayor but when we are a town of 17,000 split between two utilities, one owned by ConEd, probably the worst utility in the US outside of Entergy in the south it is hard to blame the mayor. The problem rests with the state and the rules imposed on the utlitlies. The answer is not to bury everything as who would pay for it? Maybe all new construction could be buried but it is not going to happen in areas like this. If the utiliites had better response plans than this would not have been as bad. Crews should have been out with tree companies on day 1 clearing everything. How many days are we going to have to drive by the house on Monroe that has a tree that crushed both their cars and is sitting on the wires. So yes the mayor can call every day, as does every mayor up here in Bergen County, but until the state puts more conditions on the utilities, which they voted not to do in the last year the situation will not improve. Get rid of O&R nice idea, but PSEG's response in this area has not been much better.
CCG November 08, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Rooney doesn't own the gas station, it is family owned. You should get your facts straight prior to posting, then you wouldn't sound ignorant.

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