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After a week of being powerless or near powerless, thousands of Queens homes and businesses are starting to power back up, but it almost feels like too little, too late. It's already been a week of no food, no hot water and no business for many people, and one family blames the death of a 60 year old father on the blackout. Politicians are also fuming: They want Con Ed CEO Kevin Burke to resign, pissed that Burke minimized the blackout as an "inconvenience," and for Governor Pataki to designate Queens a disaster area. Representative Joseph Crowley said during a press conference, "If this were an area of 100,000 people in upstate New York, the governor would have declared it a disaster area." No kidding.

Con Ed now says that only 3,000 customers remain without power (is that customers as in "discrete residents" or customers as in "buildings with many residents") and that Con Ed workers, along with contractors from other power companies, are on the scene:

One thousand Con Edison employees and contractors are working in the Long Island City network to bring the lights back on to residents and businesses in these communities. As service is being restored, residents in northwest Queens will see 39 generators, and miles of wires on the street. Equipment that normally would be underground will be on the street. That equipment is insulated, safe, and will be protected.

The network of cables, transformers, and other equipment in the affected area has sustained major damage, and most of it must be rebuilt. Much of the work that was done this weekend was temporary to get power to as many homes and businesses as quickly and safely as possible. Once temporary repairs have been made to restore service, Con Edison will focus on making permanent repairs.

The company is asking customers in the affected communities to continue to conserve electricity even when their power is restored because of extensive damage to wires and cables.

So, over the next week (weeks?), expect lots of manhole fires as Con Ed tries to rewire everything. And we were reading the Times article today which says, "Con Edison has pledged to reimburse residents up to $7,000 for spoiled food and other damages, and the city has promised to assist small businesses affected." Does that mean the $350 reimbursement for damages has been lifted to $7,000? Doesn't seem that way yet, according to the Con Ed claims site.

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Top photograph from Tina Fineberg/AP; bottom photograph from jasoneppink on Flickr