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Press Releases / 2003 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 19, 2003


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today honored City workers who went above and beyond the call of duty during the Blackout of 2003. Starting at 4:11PM on Thursday, August 14, the entire City of New York and much of the Northeastern United States was thrust into the worst blackout in our country’s history. Through a combination of a coordinated multi-agency emergency response and the help of the City’s 8 million people, New York made it through the darkness without the widespread disruption, crime and chaos that plagued the City during the blackouts of 1965 and 1977. Mayor Bloomberg presented Certificates of Merit to City workers at a press conference held at City Hall.

“While the true heroes of last weeks blackout were the 8 million citizens of this city, I want to say a special thank you to members of our municipal workforce,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “These City workers demonstrated extraordinary dedication to their fellow New Yorkers. They fed the hungry, rescued those that were trapped, calmed people’s nerves and got this City back on its feet quickly and safely. Every day these men and women serve this City and we all appreciate their work, but today I want to congratulate those who went beyond the call of duty. You make your fellow New Yorkers proud and that’s the greatest compliment in the world.”

Firefighters from Ladder Company 106, Brooklyn rescued four people from a blaze at 1:00AM the night of the blackout. Firefighter Michael Duffy, along with Lieutenant Gerald Duffy and Firefighters Bob McCormick, Mario Polit, Mark Hershey (Probationary), and Robert Damino (Probationary) responded to a fire on the second floor of a four-story apartment building located at 147 Guernsey Avenue. Upon arrival they noticed thick smoke venting out of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors. Residents informed the company that there were people trapped inside. Duffy then noticed someone waving a flashlight or candle from a fourth floor window. With no time to waste, he carefully navigated the aerial ladder through trees and power lines, extending it to the fourth floor. After climbing four stories up the ladder, Duffy leaped through the window on the fourth floor, searched through the thick, acrid smoke and found two civilians huddled together gasping for air. He removed his mask and administered oxygen to the injured before removing them out of the building via aerial ladder. The members of Ladder Company 106 rescued a total of four people from the burning building.

Lieutenant Lawrence Serras, Sergeant John Politoski, Detectives William Lutz, James Moran, Gregory Mathius, Detective Robert Masucci, and Police Officers James Coll and Peter Keszthelyi are assigned to the Emergency Service Unit – Truck 1. They responded to a call to rescue two individuals stuck in separate elevators at the Empire State Building at 9:15 PM. In one rescue, Detective Moran repelled down the elevator shaft four floors to remove a man who was stuck in an elevator on the 52nd floor. After repelling through the elevator shaft, Detective Moran placed the victim in a harness and hauled him to safety on the 57th floor. During the other rescue, the ESU officers removed two layers of brick and firewall and used a ladder within the elevator shaft to remove a man stuck on the 32nd floor.

EMT Blanca Delgado-Sosa, an instructor in EMS Dispatch, was with a class of new dispatchers when the power outage occurred. When the lights went out, she immediately went to FDNY Headquarters to begin preparations on the EMS backup dispatch system. During the hours of the blackout, call volume steadily increased and a number of ambulance calls were pending, or holding. Her job was to evaluate the status of each caller and dispatch an ambulance where necessary. She stayed at the back up dispatch center for a total of 22 hours and spoke to hundreds of frightened New Yorkers.

Subway Train Operator Lawrence Credle and Conductor Ben Chandler were running a Manhattan-bound C train when power was lost. The train came to a complete stop south of the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station in downtown Brooklyn. After receiving instruction from the Control Center, the crew began to calmly evacuate their train. But one passenger, a pregnant woman, needed additional medical assistance. So, after evacuating the rest of the passengers, the crew returned to the train and stayed with her until EMS arrived to remove her safely from the train.

Like other Bus Operators, Glen Rasmussen ferried hundreds of stranded commuters around the city once it was clear power would be out for some time. Rasmussen usually works out of the Hudson Depot on the Cross-town M-14 route, driving a standard sized bus. After working his normal shift, Rasmussen returned to the Hudson Depot around 11:00 p.m. and volunteered for additional duty. While he normally did not drive one of NYC Transit’s articulated buses, he had been trained to operate one. Seeing one on the property, Rasmussen boarded the bus and drove to Penn Station around 1:00 AM and began shuttling weary stranded commuters out to Jamaica Station in Queens for points east. On at least one occasion, he continued to several Long Island Rail Road stations dropping off grateful passengers as he went. Rasmussen continued this Penn Station Shuttle for several hours, transporting close to 2,000 customers.

Tim Kane, Geographic Information and Logistics Specialist, worked 35 hours with almost no sleep. He was instrumental in the acquisition of generators and fuel for nursing homes, hospitals, dialysis centers and other facilities. In addition he played a pivotal role in ensuring that 311 stayed viable by securing additional fuel to power 311. Kane also generated maps and distributed them to other agencies to ensure that life saving equipment got to where it was needed. The maps also were used to keep track of the power grid as it was restored so that emergency resources could be shifted to the remaining affected areas. In addition, Tim was involved in the management of OEM’s emergency operations center throughout the power outage.

John Tipaldo is in charge of the Traffic Management Center. In addition to overseeing the conversion of DOT computers from electricity to generators and then back to electricity, John also commanded DOT staff through a labor-intensive manual inspection of over 6,000 streetlights throughout the City. The City has more than 12,000 signalized intersections and only about half of them are computerized. On Saturday, John quickly dispatched DOT engineers and contractors to manually inspect and re-time the non-computerized streetlights at intersections along secondary and side streets throughout the five boroughs, but particularly in Queens. He and his team completed the task throughout the five boroughs by 8:00PM Sunday. Had they not worked quickly and manually re-timed over 700 traffic lights, the city could have experienced debilitating and unsafe traffic conditions during the morning rush hour on Monday.

Myra Miller is a Community Coordinator for Langston Hughes Houses in Brooklyn. During the blackout, Myra cared for 15 children ranging in age from 6-12 years old whose parents couldn’t return home immediately after the blackout. While most of the children were eventually reunited with their parents later that night, Myra then spent the night with 3 children at the Community Center until the next day when their parents finally arrived. She also made the center available to assist seniors and others in the surrounding community by providing water and ice packs.

At the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Bellevue Hospital, a team of nurses helped save one of the smallest New Yorkers. Before the blackout, an 11-week-old baby—born 15 weeks premature and weighing just over three pounds—had been intubated. When the power went out, the tube that was helping the baby breath had to be removed from the electric ventilator. Backup generators also went down for approximately one half hour and Nurses Zenaida Banzon and Anat (Annette) Gross ventilated the baby by hand. Vicky Holman—Associate Director of Nursing in Obstetrics—supervised the procedure, while nurse practitioner Thelma Faderan monitored the baby's vital signs throughout. Today, the baby is now doing fine.

Arthur Spangel, Division Chief for South Operations, Vincent Sapienza, Director of Environmental Affairs, Steve Askew and his staff at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant and Joe Massaro and his staff at the Red Hook Wastewater Treatment Plant preformed heroically to get these two plants up and running after their emergency generators failed to start once power was lost. Both plants experienced significant flooding from sewage, and the efforts of these men to pump out the untreated sewage and restart operations averted greater damage to the plants and saved the City millions of dollars in extensive repairs to the electrical and mechanical systems. Their quick work also helped to prevent all of the City’s beaches from further pollution and possibly having to be closed for the entire summer.

Contact: Edward Skyler / Robert Lawson (212) 788-2958

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