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The Assembly

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January 30, 2004

Ortiz Calls For Public Hearings to Assure Safe Utilities for New Yorkers

Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz (D-51st) has called for public hearings to investigate the tragic, but avoidable death of Ms. Jodie S. Lane, a thirty-year-old doctoral student in clinical psychology at Columbia University Teachers College. Ms. Lane's unfortunate demise on January 16th was the direct result of unsafe and inadequate service repairs performed by utility supplier Con Edison. While Ms. Lane was walking her dogs only blocks from her loft she stopped to break up a skirmish between them and accidentally stepped onto a metal cover-plate for an underground service box. Due to an improperly insulated wire, which was worked on in January of 2003, an exposed wire had come into contact with the service box sending a deadly electrical current to the cover-plate on the sidewalk.

"This death is a tragedy for Ms. Lane's family and my prayers are with them, but it is also a tragedy for the people of New York. We have lost a neighbor and a friend and what makes the circumstances all the worse is it was completely avoidable. If proper procedure and precautions were taken Ms. Lane would still be with us, that is why we must make sure that those precautions are taken and any improper work that has been done is checked and repaired, and not tomorrow or next week but today for the safety and quality of life for all New Yorkers and the millions who come to visit us each year."

During an investigation by the New York Post an electrician they had hired discovered a manhole cover at 95 Pitt St. on Manhattan's Lower East Side was emitting a fatal 117 volts, which was boiling the water which sat on it. With the winter conditions puddles of salt water were conducting the current to a nearby street lamp easily accessible to any passer by. Only blocks away from where Ms. Lane was killed another leaky electrical connection box was emitting over 30 volts which was running current to a 30 foot metal guide rod on a nearby curb carrying 25 volts. Since January 16th Con Edison has taken full responsibility for Ms. Lane's death and has begun the process of checking the over quarter million underground junction boxes scattered across the city and Westchester.

"Con Edison has taken responsibility for the events that led to Ms. Lane death and has taken steps to make sure a similar situation does not occur, and I commend them for doing so, but we must be assured that the same mistakes are not made again. That is why I am calling for public hearings to be held to discuss the events that led to this tragedy and to investigate Con Ed's procedure and plan to rectify this critical problem."