John Keeshan, who was in the news last week for folding his eponymous real estate agency into the Compass group, made the papers some years back with his push to get rid of the welter of utility lines that mar the view as one approaches Montauk’s commercial center from the west. The effort to bury the wires stalled, as do many such things, because of money, or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Elsewhere, well-heeled residents have banded together to create special tax districts to pay for taking down the poles; in Montauk that prospect was never good.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who has long heard complaints about the ugly overhead lines, and more recently the extension of utility poles, has offered a variety of solutions, which for the most part went nowhere. Now he has taken a different tack, presenting a bill that would create a statewide fund using money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. His argument is that underground utilities are far less vulnerable to outages in storms. Long Island, with its susceptibility to hurricanes, and upstate, where ice storms frequently take down electrical service, would both benefit. And more and more violent weather events caused by global warming give greater urgency to fortifying New York’s utilities.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, electricity on much of Long Island was cut off for up to two weeks, with damaging economic effects. Underground power lines would help avert that the next time. As a bonus, the entry to Montauk would sure look a heck of a lot better.