George Cerasuolo of Garden City watched with growing alarm four months ago when several utility workers in PSEG Long Island trucks pulled up on his street, knocked on a neighbor’s door and then began to move heavy equipment into his yard to dig a hole.
When they finished for the day, they left behind a pile of roots and dirt, several broken azalea branches and a hole deep enough to accommodate a utility pole, he said.
Four months later, the new pole has not been installed, the crew has not returned, and the hole is still there, marked off by red safety tape.
"Why the heck, if it was so urgent, haven't they come back?" he said Thursday, adding, "I don’t understand how anybody can come in your yard without permission."
In the aftermath, Cerasuolo, 85, who is recovering from a stroke, has begun to raise questions about utility practices that allow workers to enter yards without permission and about the utility’s failure to trim a giant tree that looms over the electric wires and likely caused the problems in the first place. None of his concerns has been addressed, he said, adding, “I feel like the little guy and the big guy is just totally ignoring me."
PSEG spokesman Jeremy Walsh said the utility was sorry for Cerasuolo’s experience, which it blamed on a miscommunication and other problems.
“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience to this customer,” he said.
After the crews began work that March day, Cerasuolo said he went out to talk to the men, asking why they didn’t ring his doorbell first to ask permission.
“They said, ‘We didn’t know you were home,' " he said. "I said, ‘How could you if you don’t ring the bell?’ It was like the Keystone Kops."
The hole is on a narrow utility right of way at the back of his property in a neighborhood where utility poles and wires are behind homes rather than on the street.
Cerasuolo said in the more than 50 years he has lived in the home, neither LIPA nor PSEG has ever trimmed the giant tree that overhangs the power lines and “is holding up the pole.”
PSEG maintains it has surveyed and trimmed LIPA’s entire service territory in the five years since taking over management of the grid, and has begun a second cycle, starting the process over again.
Cerasuolo said he has called PSEG several times to complain about the hole and the damage, with no satisfaction. He has even called public officials, including U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), whose staff reportedly was told that he would be receiving a letter from the utility soon. He said hasn’t received it.
Cerasuolo said he was particularly outraged by the workers’ suggestion that he file a claim over his broken azalea bush. “I said, ‘You broke it, why do I have to file a claim?’” He has yet to do so.
PSEG's Walsh explained that during the pole replacement work in Cerasuolo’s yard, “our crews had to be reassigned to other pressing work.”
Due to a miscommunication, he added, "We did not realize a hole had been left in his backyard. We reacted as soon as we were made aware.” Cerasuolo said the company didn't react until after he called Newsday.
Walsh said informational letters about the work were sent to customers in February. The utility has a five-foot easement on either side of backyard poles.
PSEG acknowledged that Cerasuolo and an elected official contacted the utility, but said “it was not communicated to us … that a hole remained in his yard.”
The company said last week it was making plans to visit his home this week to explain the pole relocation, which is scheduled to resume on July 9. Other customers in the area will be called July 6, PSEG said. “Again, we apologize to this customer for our oversight,” Walsh wrote. “We are looking forward to completing this important work as safely and quickly as possible.”