Please cover that open manhole


To the editor:

As of this writing on Thursday morning, Feb. 22, there is still an open manhole cover sitting in the middle of our block on Edgehill Avenue, blocking emergency vehicle access to our street. There are live wires coming out of the manhole, and it is covered by a piece of industrial-grade yellow plastic.

Our neighbors lost power on Wednesday, Feb. 14. This “temporary line” is Con Edison’s answer to them: “This is what you get. We’ll fix this on our own schedule, our own sweet time. Don’t bother contacting us, we’re going to ignore you. Oh, by the way, the crew that fixes this will be here to fix it tomorrow morning,” (Feb. 15).

But no one showed up. Only promises from ConEd over the phone. They have successfully ignored this dangerous situation for more than two weeks. Their negligence is astounding. Are they asking to be sued? Or for someone to be seriously injured, or even die?

The following were alerted during the course of this time period: The Riverdale Press, Councilman Andrew Cohen’s office, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz’s office, News 4 New York, and the office of the Mayor. Even the fire department was called. Both Councilman Cohen and especially Assemblyman Dinowitz’s office have been helpful. But still, nothing has been done.

Of course, myself, my neighbors and my wife have all spoken with ConEd’s “24-hour emergency” line multiple times — at least 12 — and have been told what we want to hear: This open manhole cover is on the list for emergency repairs. Emergency? Are these clowns running ConEd aware of the meaning of the word?

We have reported this case to the Public Service Commission, continually updating it. Still, the manhole cover is still open, with live wires coming out. Apparently it’s an emergency only when someone is seriously injured or dies as a result.

Every single party that we have spoken with at ConEd has ignored (the rudeness is palpable) the simplest of requests, first that the manhole cover itself be moved to the top of the plastic grating for temporary safety. And second, a date be given — a commitment from ConEd — that the digging that they say is required to effect repairs is committed to in an email. That we get a date for this “emergency repair.”

None of us got a call back from anyone at ConEd. No one. None.

The Riverdale Press apparently thinks nothing of this dangerous scenario. They have ignored my plea for coverage to embarrass ConEd into repairing the manhole. I even sent a letter to ConEd’s president and chief executive Timothy Cawley requesting intervention.

The fire department personnel that came out suggested we contact Mr. Dinowitz’s office. Assemblyman Dinowitz’s office walked over to our house and called the situation “intolerable and unacceptable.” The one ConEd crew who was polite at the scene two days after the repair told us that “unless you put extreme pressure on our bosses,” nothing will be done. Nothing?

Is this any way to run a business? Is public safety so far down on the list of priorities that ConEd and the city officials only reply to tragedy? What about you, Riverdale Press? Are you waiting for a potentially juicy headline? “Local resident fried by live wires coming from open ConEd manhole”?

I am even neglecting to mention that we cannot access our own driveway, because ConEd has blocked it. That is small potatoes.

Why is it so difficult to get help? Who is going to take responsibility for ensuring the public’s safety? Why is ConEd allowed to do this?

Our next step in this heavily documented case is likely to file a lawsuit. It’s the last thing we want to do. Just fix the manhole cover!

Adam Stoler

Adam Stoler