Verizon Phone Outage Has UWS Customers Dialing M for Mad

By Leslie Albrecht on April 19, 2012 7:05am 

Many Verizon customers have been left without service for two weeks.
Many Verizon customers have been left without service for two weeks.
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Hundreds of Verizon customers on the Upper West Side are dialing M for mad because their phone lines have been down for almost a week — and the company has told them they won't be fixed until April 26.

The massive service outage is affecting land lines and some Internet connections in multiple buildings along Central Park West in the 80s. Residents and office workers in the area say their phones suddenly went dead on April 12.

They were left speechless when Verizon representatives told them it would take two weeks to bring service back.

"I was like, excuse me, are you serious? Two weeks?" said Iram Rivera, a concierge at 262 Central Park West, where roughly 80 percent of the building's 80 apartments were affected by the outage. Of the five phone lines at the building's front desk, only one was working on Wednesday.

It's not known exactly how many customers are without phone service. Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said the company has received "less than 300" calls from customers reporting that their lines were dead. Some customers reported static, "limited service," or other problems.

"It's almost unconscionable, in 2012," said Dr. David Volpi, an ear, nose and throat surgeon with an office inside 262 Central Park West.

The fast-paced surgery practice he shares with three other doctors came to a screeching halt on April 12 when the phones suddenly stopped ringing.

"It's really annoying, the loss of revenue," Volpi said. "Do you hear the phone ringing? A doctor's office runs when the phone rings."

The seven phone lines at the practice's front desk have been routed to another office Volpi and his partners keep on the Upper East Side. But that's overwhelmed the phone system there, and patients are losing patience because it can take a while to get their calls answered.

Some say they're frustrated by the lack of response from Verizon.

"I just don't get the feeling that there's much of an appreciation on Verizon's part that this is a hardship for people," said Ken Coughlin, who lives on West 87th Street and Central Park West. "There's no communication, there's no updates, it's infuriating."

Coughlin said he hasn't been able to reach a live human being over the phone at Verizon to get more information about the problem.

The Verizon spokesman said the telephonic troubles started with a malfunctioning pressurization system at West 73rd Street and Columbus Avenue. The system usually pumps air into underground cables, but instead it pumped a spray of moistened air.

Now Verizon is drying out some cables and replacing some that were damaged with new ones, Bonomo said.

Most of that work should be completed by the end of this weekend, Bonomo said, but there could be "lingering issues" next week too.

The outage affected traditional copper cables for land-line phones and some Internet connections. The fiber-optic FiOS network that provides TV, Internet and voice service wasn't affected, Bonomo said.

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, has received several complaints about the outage, said Jesse Bodine, Brewer's director of constituent services and policy.

One was from an older woman who had just taken her husband home from the hospital after he suffered a stroke, and was worried about contacting doctors if a problem developed.

"Those are the people we're worried about," Bodine said. "They don't have cell phones. She didn't know what she was going to do."

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