On Monday night, Councilman Costa Constantinides hosted a town hall on the proposed increase for Con Edison ratepayers.
The company wants to raise $695 million from New York City and Westchester County customers starting next January, including $485 million in electricity and $210 million for natural gas customers.
For New York City customers, that would raise the average electric bill by $4.45 to $81.78 per month.
“There was a consensus, unanimous in the room, that this rate hike is unfair to the people of western Queens,” Constantinides said. “It should not be approved.”
The councilman blasted Con Edison for its recent performance amid the heat wave, when it intentionally cut power for more than 30,000 customers in Brooklyn. According to the company, it cut power to make repairs and prevent an even larger outage.
“ConEd leadership categorically failed the people of this city throughout last week’s heatwave,” Constantinides said in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve better than this, and it’s time we fully examine how we power the Big Apple moving forward.
“It’s only going to keep getting hotter,” he added, “and rolling blackouts shouldn’t be the status quo.”
The councilman noted that thousands of western Queens residents also lost power back in 2016, and that “nothing has changed.”
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to criticize Con Edison because thousands of residents were still without power.
“New Yorkers have lost patience and have lost trust in Con Ed’s ability to provide a basic service,” the mayor said in a statement.
While noting that the company is heavily regulated, it’s still a private entity that is “not accountable to the public” the same way an agency is.
“If they can’t handle a job, it’s time to look at new alternatives,” de Blasio said.
Constantinides echoed a similar sentiment, calling for a solution where a public utility isn’t a for-profit corporation that “puts money back into the stakeholders’ pockets.”
“The residents of New York City are captive to the whims of Con Edison,” he said. “It’s not like they can choose someone else.”
The Astoria councilman added that paying for new gas lines would continue the city’s relationship with fossil fuels, as opposed to investing in renewable energy.
When fossil fuel infrastructure is eventually phased out, residents would still be paying for it, he said.
“We know fossil fuels are a huge part of what’s causing our city to be under attack by climate change,” Constantinides said.
The Public Service Commission, which is reviewing the rate hike proposal, is accepting comments and testimonies until September 30.
According to the councilman, it will render a decision by the fall or early winter.