By Julianne Cuba
A new city law increases fines slapped on utility companies — such as Con Ed and Verizon — that don’t remove abandoned poles when they add new ones. Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park) introduced the legislation because of the staggering number of wooden poles in his district left to rot and fall over, including two in Gerritsen Beach that were tilted over at nearly 45-degree angles, he said.
“Utility poles are popping up all over the place. Not sure if you all notice it, but now I can’t help but notice them. Where a new utility pole was put up, they don’t take down the old one,” said Maisel during a Community Board 18 meeting on Feb. 15. “Some of our streets are beginning to look like palisades, one pole after another pole. We actually had in Gerritsen Beach, two poles that were leaning at 45-degree angles, and it takes quite a bit of effort to take down the poles that really are in bad shape.”
The city could previously charge a utility company $250–$500 for leaving in an unused pole, but the new legislation raises that fine to a minimum of $350 and a maximum of $750, and requires the city to notify the company 10 days in advance of getting fined if they don’t pull it out of the ground, according to Maisel, which he hopes will increase compliance.
“The greater the fine, the more likely people don’t want to pay it,” he said. “They will be more anxious to comply with the law.”
In addition to the increased fines, the legislation creates a system for following up and actually collecting the fines, which Maisel doubts happened much in the past.
“The city was not organized to bring this to the attention of the utilities. I don’t think anybody has ever been fined for it.”
Redundant utility poles have raised hackles in Marine Park a few times before, particularly when one lady’s beloved Linden tree had a brush with death after Con Ed inserted a new wooden pole right in its flower bed, but the utility company quickly came to the rescue and removed it.
And about six months after that, extraneous poles blocked the crosswalk signals at a few intersections in the neighborhood.
Verizon declined to comment, according to spokesman Ray McConville. A spokesman for Con Ed said the company will work with the city’s new legislation.
“We’re aware of the new legislation and will work with the city to achieve its objectives,” said Con Ed’s Bob McGee.
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