Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, local officials and Garden City neighbors gathered to oppose a PSEG plan to replace a damaged underground high-powered utility transmission cable with a power line suspended on 19 “monster poles” that would be over twice the height of ordinary utility poles. Standing in a field where families walk dogs and children play, which would be in the shadow of the proposed 80 foot poles, local families echoed the officials’ calls to place the new cable below ground.
“PSEG should keep their poles and bury the cable,” stated Murray. “Don’t give neighbors short shrift by cutting corners, doing repairs ‘on the cheap’ and ruining a neighborhood’s aesthetics by planting 79 foot ‘monster utility poles’ in the backyard of a residential area.”
The officials explained that a 69kV power cable that emanates from an electric substation between Stewart Avenue and Commercial Avenue has been buried below ground for as long as anyone can recall. Recently, the transmission cable has failed, and PSEG is planning to replace it with a new cable that will be strung along utility poles that will be up to 79 feet in height. The new poles would replace a line of existing utility poles along Commercial Avenue that are between 35-40 feet high. The new line of poles would commence near the intersection of Commercial Avenue and Oak Street, proceeding east along Commercial Avenue. Both Murray and Rice indicated that the decision to place the original cable below ground was well-reasoned, and they feel that there is no justification to add to local visual pollution with new higher utility poles in the area.
“After what we saw during Sandy, government and the private sector should be working together to harden our infrastructure, make it more resilient and better prepared to withstand the future storms that we know are coming," said U.S Representative Kathleen Rice. "PSEG has said they're committed to that effort, but ripping up a buried cable and replacing it 70 feet above ground seems like moving backwards instead of forwards. I urge PSEG to reconsider and do the right thing -- invest in the resilient infrastructure our communities will rely on when the next storm comes."
Murray and Rice observed that the utility has cited cost as a factor in replacing the damaged underground cable with “monster poles.” In stark contrast to this cost-cutting initiative, the Supervisor observed that a recent news report indicated PSEG’s Long Island ratepayers may be required to pay $103 million for upstate power lines that will provide no benefit to Long Island (according to PSEG). Both officials expressed outrage that PSEG would cut corners on a project with local impact, while ratepayers may be “on the hook” for massive costs associated with projects outside the region which will provide no local benefit.
The Supervisor and Congresswoman further pointed out that PSEG is seeking a rate hike and is refusing to disclose its executives’ compensation at the same time that the utility is looking to economize by replacing existing infrastructure with cheaper, less desirable “monster utility poles.” They further asked, “If we don’t draw the line here, where will the next cluster of these ugly and obtrusive poles ‘pop up’?”
Murray also expressed frustration over the fact that the utility only notified local neighbors about the proposed project in response to her written insistence that community involvement be a component of any proposed plan to site new utility poles in the area. Murray questioned the utility’s sincerity with respect to public input, pointing out that the public meeting date and PSEG’s project start date are both scheduled for April 1st. Also in written communication, Supervisor Murray called for the damaged buried cable to be replaced with a new underground power line, not with new “monster poles.”
“I was floored that PSEG had not reached out to local neighbors until we forced their hand on a project that was scheduled to start in the beginning of April,” stated Murray. “Neighbors deserve the respect and courtesy of being included in the decision-making process.”
“Decisions that affect the safety, security, and emergency preparedness of our communities can't be made without the input and involvement of those communities," said Rep. Rice.
"I'm glad that PSEG has now at least notified residents of this project, and disappointed that they didn't do so in the first place. I hope they'll listen carefully to the concerns raised here today and take it on themselves to be more inclusive and less imposing in the future."
The officials and local residents, standing in a field that straddles local homes and Commercial Avenue where the poles would be located, mentioned that neighbors had expressed safety concerns regarding the high-energy cable. Neighbors indicated their belief that a below ground cable would not be subject to risks of elevated energy lines in the event of storms and traffic accidents.
“We are outraged that PSEG would try to replace an unobtrusive underground power cable with offensive ‘monster utility poles’,” stated Murray. “I am equally disturbed that the utility did not even advise neighbors of their plan until we demanded that they ‘do the right thing’. I want to thank my good friend, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, for standing up for neighbors, along with me, as we oppose PSEG’s ‘low-watt’ solution to what should be a simple cable replacement.”