clock menu more-arrow no yes
New Dorp beach in Staten Island had a major power outage after Tropical Storm Isaias pummeled the costal neighborhood, Aug. 4, 2020.
Tropical Storm Isaias pummeled Staten Island’s New Dorp Beach, zapping electricity and downing trees in the coastal neighborhood, Aug. 4, 2020.
Clifford Michel/THE CITY

Filed under:

Isaias Delivers Power Outages and Powerful Reminder of NYC’s Vulnerability, Years After Superstorm Sandy

Once again, Mike Kosowski was left in the dark.

“During Sandy, I lost power for four or five days,” recalled Kosowski, 64, sitting outside his Staten Island home to keep cool Tuesday night after Tropical Storm Isaias plunged his New Dorp neighborhood into a blackout.

Kosowski was one of more than 125,000 Con Edison customers across the city to lose power in what the utility called the second-biggest weather-spurred outage in its history, trailing only 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.

The latest storm, packing heavy winds and rains, downed trees — in one case, killing a man sitting in a van in Queens — and wreaking new havoc on the city five months into a punishing pandemic.

While Isaias spared New Yorkers widespread flooding, for many the storm evoked memories of Sandy and reminders of how vulnerable the city remains nearly eight years later.

Power Line Problems

Kosowski and his neighbor, Rich Smith, wondered aloud why their electricity is still delivered by above-ground wires, rather than from below.

“It would cost a lot of money and that’s when the economy was doing good,” said Smith, 65. “Forget about it now.”

They noted that just around the corner, a tree crashed through power lines and landed on a Jeep. As THE CITY reported recently, the city recently cut its tree maintenance budget, raising concerns about falling limbs and worse.

Downed trees caused damage throughout the city during Tropical Storm Isaias, Aug. 4, 2020.
A downed tree slammed a car in Staten Island during Tropical Storm Isaias, Aug. 4, 2020.
Clifford Michel/THE CITY

“For years, I have been the only person talking about our tree laws,” said Councilmember Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island). “And while we all love trees, the city has no funds to maintain them, and they make it almost impossible for homeowners to remove them. That should change.”

A Call for ‘Holistic Resiliency’

Queens residents suffered the most power outages, with nearly 50,000, though Staten Islanders were hit hardest per capita with 36,000 at one point. Manhattan, which has no elevated electric wires, reported just a handful of outages.

Mayor Bill de Blasio headed to Queens, where he surveyed the wreckage of fallen trees in Astoria, and urged New Yorkers to call 311 to report downed branches.

Rep. Max Rose (D-Brooklyn, Staten Island) suggested de Blasio spent too much time touting flood prevention efforts in Lower Manhattan before the storm at the expense of much of the rest of the boroughs.

So did Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn), who has pushed Con Edison to invest in burying power lines across the city.

“Resiliency needs to be holistic,” Brannan, who represents Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge, tweeted late Tuesday afternoon.

As THE CITY has reported, many homeowners in areas devastated by Sandy remain exposed, thanks to disputes between the de Blasio administration and federal officials over flood maps that have left many without flood insurance.

Meanwhile, major resiliency projects are slow moving. One case in point: A much-delayed seawall for Staten Island’s East Shore isn’t slated to be completed until 2025.

On Tuesday, New Yorkers who survived Sandy said they were just grateful the damage from Isaias wasn’t worse.

“The lights are inconvenient,” said Joann Lucci, 41, of Staten Island’s Grasmere neighborhood, standing outside with her mother as her children played in the street. “But they’ll go back on at some point.”

Sign up for the newsletter Get THE CITY Scoop

Sign up and get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning