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Con Ed Set to Install Waterproof Transformers in Lower Manhattan

 One World Trade Center and other buildings in the Financial District lit up Nov. 2, 2012.
One World Trade Center and other buildings in the Financial District lit up Nov. 2, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Tuan Ngyuen

LOWER MANHATTAN — Con Edison is about to embark on a new four-year project to help keep Downtown's lights on in the event of another massive storm.

The power company is slated to install 158 new water-proof transformers under the streets of Lower Manhattan to prevent corrosive floodwaters from short-circuiting the city’s power, said David Gmach, Con Ed’s director of public affairs, at a recent Community Board 1 meeting.

The old transformers could not function if submerged under water, he said.

Replacing the devices, which sit under sidewalks and streets, will call for jack-hammering to open the roadways, Gmach said.

“This is a major undertaking,” he explained. “But we’re doing what we can to ensure that our customers don’t go without power again.”

Thousands of people in Manhattan were without electricity for days after Hurricane Sandy tore through the city at the end of October.

Changing out the transformers is part of an $80 million storm-readiness plan that will begin before the end of 2013, Gmach said. Other Con Ed equipment is also being modernized and replaced, or moved to higher ground.

While residents praised the plan, there was also concern at the CB1 meeting about adding more drilling and digging in an already construction-heavy area.

Gmach said that while changing out a transformer, which is done with a crane, may only take several hours, cutting open the street and closing it back up could take a couple of weeks for each piece of equipment.

Despite the additional construction, the project is a needed and welcome one, said CB1 chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes.

"We are so thrilled you are making this investment," she said. "We really just thank you."