Community Leaders Urge New York Governor to Declare Power Outage a Disaster

A group of political leaders urged Gov. George Pataki on Sunday to designate a section of the city suffering from a prolonged power failure a disaster area, making it eligible for federal aid.

"Anywhere else it would be," Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., said at a news conference in the borough of Queens, which officials often complain is overlooked. "If this were an area of 100,000 people in upstate New York, the governor would have declared it a disaster area.

Service to an estimated 25,000 customers failed during the heat wave last week. Figuring an average of four people to a household, officials estimated about 100,000 people were affected.

As of Sunday, Consolidated Edison workers, reinforced by workers from other states, had restored power for about 13,000 households, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The governor's office did not immediately respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment Sunday.

Bloomberg urged residents to put aside their frustrations over the power failure and thank the workers trying to correct it.

"The Con Ed workers are working an enormous number of hours. I don't think anyone should be satisfied, but the city's response has been as good as it could be," he said.

But state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, a Democrat whose constituents bore the brunt of the power outage, told reporters that Con Edison officials should be held criminally responsible.

"How can anyone believe anything Con Ed says?" he said. "I think what they did was criminal, and I hope to see some people who work at Con Ed in handcuffs before this is over."

Bloomberg said there was still no indication when all power would be re-established, or why Queens suffered while the rest of the city did not. He said Con Ed promised a report within two weeks.

Other officials said the city planned to reimburse small businesses for up to $7,000 in perishable losses and that an emergency loan fund would be announced within a few days. Nine senior citizen centers with air conditioning and meals remained open Sunday.