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City goofs in THIS power fight

Bronx Times

John Lesnick was powerless in every sense of the word.

“Everything was down. Couldn’t even make a pot of coffee,” said Lesnick, a retired security guard recalling the time Con Edison had shut off the electricity to his Ferry Point home after falling behind on payments.

The juice has since returned thanks to a city agency that went from savior to detriment. It would take the powers of a local state senator to permanently clear up Lesnick’s snafu.

It all started with Lesnick’s inability to pay for his Con Edison bill independently. He was over $2,000 deep in the electric hole, and on a fixed income.

He was a prime candidate for a utility assistance program sponsored through the city’s Human Resources Administration.

But as he worked through his application with his case worker, Lesnick received a call from his roommate alerting him that Con Edison was outside the house.

“While I’m on the phone, the caseworker threw me out of the office,” said Lesnick, whose pleas to intervene were ignored.

A two-man crew entered the basement, later shutting the power. For two days, Lesnick had no power, using flashlights and candles to get by.

“We were afraid to open up the refridgerator because we thought our food would go bad,” said Lesnick, later hooking up an extension cord from his fridge to a neighbor’s electric supply.

Meantime, Lesnick worked the phones as fast as he could. Time was a factor since he had little battery life to spare.

He later phoned Sen. Jeff Klein’s office, who called HRA to expedite the process. Con Edison soon received a “promissory phone call,” ensuring Lesnick was now in good standing.

Case closed, right? Not yet.

“I asked Con Edison, ‘Did you get the money from HRA? Is that why you turned the power back on?’” remembered Lesnick. “They said, “‘What money?’”

HRA insisted Lesnick was wrong. Con Edison insisted the funds were never received.

The runaround was endless, with Lesnick stuck in the middle of two agencies.

It turned out that HRA bungled his paperwork, forwarding the grant to National Grid. Why that happened remains a mystery.

“Where do you come up with National Grid?” asked Lesnick, once again calling Sen. Klein to straighten it out. A day later, HRA forwarded payment to the right utility, squaring Lesnick’s case.

“HRA was not only wrong, they were stubbong,” said Klein.

Lesnick’s case is not isolated. Other reported HRA glitches involved folks accidentally cut off from food stamps while another had an inadvertent scale-back of their food stamps.

An HRA spokeswoman said in “rare instances of human error, HRA works as quickly as possible to fix the problem.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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