NEW YORK CITY — Breezy Point residents who lost their homes to a massive fire during Hurricane Sandy are blaming the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid because the power companies failed to switch off the electricity that caused the blaze, according to a new lawsuit.
Owners of the 120 homes lost to the fire allege in the suit that LIPA and gas company National Grid failed to follow precautionary measures by not “de-energizing” homes and switching off electricity, which is common practice in extreme situations such as hurricanes.
In the case of Sandy, which struck last October, household fires were triggered along the Rockaway Peninsula after seawater in flooded homes came into contact with household electrical lines.
The problem was worsened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s order to evacuate Breezy Point, which meant that there were no firefighters or residents to extinguish the files when they erupted, according to court papers.
The suit, filed in Queens Supreme Court on Tuesday and first reported by the New York Post, says that other utilities that serve areas that flooded wound down their operations, while LIPA and National Grid did not. This was despite reassurances that LIPA and National Grid had an emergency response plan.
“Had LIPA and National Grid acted responsibly in preparing for the storm my clients would be living in their homes with all of their life’s possessions and these two communities would not look like a war-zone,” said the residents' lawyer, Keith Sullivan, in a press release. Adding that their failure to switch off the electricity was “an insult to the word ‘Negligent.’”
The lawsuit doesn’t put a specific price tag on damages, but Sullivan estimated that they surpassed $80 million.
A rep for National Grid wrote in an email that the company had not received the lawsuit, but defended National Grid’s actions during Sandy as "reasonable and appropriate."
"We don’t believe that these claims have merit," the rep added.
LIPA was not immediately available for comment.