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Call for Queens to be declared disaster zone

/ Source: The Associated Press

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.

A spokeswoman for Pataki, Joanna Rose, said the governor has spoken with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and offered any assistance necessary. The utility whose damaged lines are causing the trouble, Consolidated Edison, also bears a burden, she said.

“We believe that it is Con Ed that should make restitution to those who have suffered,” she said.

Bloomberg said electricity has been restored to 13,000 of an estimated 25,000 Consolidated Edison customers who lost power during last week’s heat wave and that Con Ed workers were laboring to restore power to the rest. “Are we satisfied with the progress?” he asked. “It is what it is.”

Speaking at a news conference, 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.

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.