South Orange Residents Say More, Better Information Needed Following Storm
Saturday, November 17, 2012 • 10:46am
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. -- Residents who weighed in on South Orange’s recovery efforts praised the village’s efforts in most areas but singled out lack of information as their biggest complaint.
Laniah Hill, a South Orange resident, said she was satisfied with officials’ efforts after the storm.
“In terms of getting leaves and trees picked up and out of the street, (South Orange officials) did a good job,” Hill said.
Taahir Latif, who was without power for 13 days, applauded South Orange officials for their communication with residents during the storm.
“I think they did a good job keeping residents informed,” Latif said. “I'm Facebook friends with (Village President) Alex Torpey, so I was staying up-to-date by means of his Facebook updates, which were helpful.”
Latif said he was able to use charging stations at the South Orange Performing Arts Center to power his electronic devices during the days that he was without power. He said he is grateful that such measures were put in place to help residents.
Efa Akutekha was unhappy with information coming from Public Service Electric & Gas.
“I don’t think that South Orange officials did a good job informing their residents,” Akutekha said. “I personally received a lot of mixed messages from PSE&G during their visits and I ended up following our (village president) on Twitter (to get) updates more specially geared to South Orange. At times, it sounded like he was just as uncertain as the rest of us.”
Ashley Winnicka-Moniez, who worked at the Clerk’s office in Village Hall the week after the storm, says that the Village did not provide adequate information.
“I know a lot of people were calling and complaining and no one really had answers,” Winnicka-Moniez said. “People would ask, ‘I have no heat, no power, what’s going on?’ and I would have no idea what to say.”
In an email interview, Torpey commented on South Orange officials’ communications and recovery efforts.
“South Orange itself was very well prepared for the storm -- we had extra staff and volunteers called in, Department of Public Works clearing out storm drains, (Office of Emergency Management) meetings for setting up sheltering spaces and reviewing emergency plans and so much more days before the storm hit and every day since,” Torpey said.
“And like we always do -- although we got most roads open quickly for emergency access, had sheltering spaces available, responded quickly to the hundreds of downed wire and tree calls, put extra police in neighborhoods without power, and communicated more to the community than we have ever before -- we were held back by the ineffective response by PSE&G."
In the email, Torpey referenced a resolution passed at the Board of Trustee’s meeting Monday asking state Legislature and Board of Public Utilities to conduct an investigation into PSE&G’s handling of the “historic and crippling loss of power” in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. (See related story here.)
“Enough is enough, and obviously PSE&G didn't learn from the problems last year, and isn't going to make the necessary changes on their own,” he said. “So we're going to have to do what we can to see that those changes are compelled by the state.”
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.