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Glen Oaks worried over power supply

"When the air conditioners come up you'll see what will happen," said Oscar Berenberg, president of Lost Community. "They'll be brownouts, blackouts and selective switching," he said, referring to utilities choosing where electricity flows on the grid.

Berenberg spoke at MS 172 in Glen Oaks during the monthly meeting of the civic association, whose boundaries are Long Island Jewish Medical Center to the north, Langdale Street to the east, Hillside Avenue to the south and Little Neck Parkway to the west. About 35 people showed up for the civic's gathering.

During the meeting, Berenberg warned that the neighborhood suffered from illegally converted apartments and overbuilding, which he said has led to an increase in demand for power in the area. The current system to deliver electricity is not sufficient to meet that demand, Berenberg said.

"They haven't really done their homework and gone through and seen what has happened to our area," he said of Con Edison. "With the existing facilities I don't think they can handle it."

Berenberg also said many of the power cables in the neighborhood were at least 30 years old and needed to be replaced.

During a slideshow presentation, Lawrence Laskowski, Con Edison's manager for distribution engineering for Brooklyn and Queens, addressed Berenberg's concerns. He said transformers on the "Glen Oaks Grid" are currently only operating at 50 percent to 70 percent of capacity.

"That should be adequate to handle the load you have now plus some growth in the future," Laskowski said. Con Edison reviews all its facilities annually and also replaces old or faulty cables as needed, he said.

In the Glen Oaks area, there were no local outages in 2001, three in 2002, two in 2003 and none so far in 2004, Laskowski said. And since 2000, Con Edison has only received six calls from Glen Oaks about brownouts during the summer months.

If an outage occurs and Con Edison is at fault, the company will pay for replacement of spoiled food and home repairs by an electrician," said Theresa Bonavolunta, who represented Con Edison's public affairs department at the meeting. However, the company will not replace electronics lost to power surges, she said.

But several audience members questioned the assertions by the Con Edison officials. They said Glen Oaks had suffered a local blackout as recently as March 18, with Con Edison's customer service telling them the company would pay for electronic equipment.

Said one woman: "Someone's giving the wrong message and I think that's very unfair to the community."

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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