Friday, June 3, 2011

Bloomberg administration trying to force grocery stores to make costly electrical upgrades

The Bloomberg administration is trying to force grocery stores to make costly electrical upgrades so they can stay open in a blackout, the Daily News has learned.

Legislation introduced in Albany at Bloomberg's request would require the stores and big gas stations to rewire their buildings so they could quickly switch to an "alternative power source" when main electrical service fails.

City officials estimate the work could cost as much as $20,000 - all of which would be picked up by the store owner."It would be an expense that would certainly hurt," said Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the state Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops."It is just an unfunded mandate," Bombardiere added.

City officials said the legislation would ensure that residents have access to food and fuel during emergencies.

Stores and gas stations would also benefit because they could stay open during a crisis - and continue to make money, said Emergency Services Commissioner Joseph Bruno. "It helps us deal with the overall emergency, but it helps them do commerce," Bruno said.

The legislation stems from the work of a task force that studies the city's response to the 2003 blackout that struck much of the Northeast.

During that crisis, even stores that obtained backup generators struggled to open because they were not wired to accept the power.

The legislation does not require stores to install backup generators."We are saying get yourself ready," Bruno said.

The legislation affects grocery stores that have 20,000 square feet or more of floor space or 60 or more employees; and fuel stations with tank capacity of at least 25,000 gallons.

Assembly members Carl Heastie and Vanessa Gibson of the Bronx sponsored the legislation in the Assembly. So far, the bills have no backers in the GOP-controlled state Senate.

"We learned a very clear lesson in 2003 - when you are doing emergency preparedness planning for more than 8 million New Yorkers, you can't overlook the basic needs of motorists, and fuel is at the top of that list," Gibson said.

BY Glenn Blain / NY DAILY NEWS
Friday, June 3rd 2011, 7:00 AM