By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — New Yorkers could see $50 added to their energy bill if Con Edison loses a fight with Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin for post-9/11 money.
Con Ed's 3.2 million customers in the five boroughs and Westchester County may have to pay the extra money, either in a one-time-only payment or spread out over several months, to reimburse the utility for work done after 9/11, a Con Ed spokesman said Tuesday. The rate hike would go into effect in 2013.
Con Ed is using the bill threat to argue that they should receive $174 million that remains in a federal pot of money allotted for rebuilding lower Manhattan after 9/11. But the utility isn't the only one eyeing the cash.
Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1, wants the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to use the money on local businesses, new schools, arts groups and affordable housing.
“We all had to sacrifice after 9/11,” Menin said. “Every small business downtown had to take a hit.”
Menin wrote to the Public Service Commission, which controls utility rates, last month lambasting Con Ed’s threat of rate increases.
Con Ed has already received $164 million from the LMDC and should shoulder the rest of the financial burden of the recovery without rate increases, Menin said.
But Garry Brown, chairman of the commission, responded to Menin defending Con Ed’s right to the LMDC money.
In the letter dated June 25, which was obtained by DNAinfo, Brown said Con Ed has been requesting rate increases for years to cover the cost of rebuilding lower Manhattan’s damaged infrastructure. The Public Service Commission has denied these requests, expecting the LMDC money to come through.
If the LMDC decides to spend the money elsewhere, “Con Edison’s customers will bear [the costs] in the rates they pay,” Brown wrote.
Customers will also be liable for more than $10 million a year in interest on the claims, Brown said.
“It is important to see the remaining program funds distributed to the eligible utilities as soon as possible so as to minimize the ultimate cost to New York ratepayers,” Brown wrote.
Menin said she did not believe the commission would actually raise rates.
“It’s a threat,” she said. “They’re trying to play hardball.”
Avi Schick, chairman of the LMDC board, said last month that the agency would try to reach a compromise with the utility companies that would also grant some of the money to the community. At the LMDC’s June 24 meeting, Schick said he hoped to take action within 30 days.
An LMDC spokesman did not immediately comment Tuesday.