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Bushkill House Spends 5 Days Without Power

Home for Easton senior citizens waits for Met-Ed, or at least news.

Rufus Patterson was watching wrestling Monday night in his apartment at Bushkill House when the lights went out. 

He and his neighbors bundled up and began to wait. After a few days, they threw away their food. And waited. 

Power came back on across the street. And they waited.

Five days after Hurricane Sandy, three of the Easton Housing Authority's buildings -- Bushkill House, and its developments on Elm Street and N. Union Street -- were still without power, said director Gene Pambianchi.

Residents of Bushkill House -- many of them senior citizens on fixed incomes -- say they are literally and figuratively in the dark.

"We feel like we've put in the last bracket," said Robert Fogel, who lives in Bushkill House with his 74-year-old mother.

Every day this week, he's walked her down the complex's steps, and takes her to work with him so she's not alone in the cold.

Others aren't as lucky. Residents spoke of people in wheelchairs and walkers stuck on the top floors, unable to use the elevators.

There's a generator here, powering emergency lights and running the boiler. Pambianchi acknowledged that the authority needs to get better generators for its buildings in order to provide more power for future storms. 

He said workers have been checking on residents on a regular basis, letting them know about shelters. 

Residents got a dose of false hope Friday when an exterminator showed up. He ran wires from a large machine to a top floor apartment of the N. Locust Street building. It looked like a generator.

One resident spoke of seeing a Met-Ed truck drive through the neighborhood, but no one's seen or heard from the utility since.

"It looked like he was taking a tour," he said. 

So on Friday afternoon, the residents still waited, feeling frustrated. Patterson said it feels like Bushkill House is a low priority.

"When you're rich, you're fast. When you're poor, you're last," he said.

Scott Surgeoner, a spokesman for Met-Ed, said senior housing doesn't occupy a specific place on the company's restoration hierarchy. He said that with the storm, company representatives have been in closer touch with municipalities, but could not say whether Easton officials had apprised anyone from Met-Ed about the situation at Bushkill House.

Surgeoner said Met-Ed hopes to have 95 percent of its customers back online by Saturday, with the remaining 5 percent restored by early next week. As of 4 p.m. Friday, the utility had 3,444 customers in Easton without power.

Mayor Sal Panto said he had been pressing the issue with Met-Ed, letting them know that senior housing was a priority when the company asked.

He noted that these are people who can't afford to eat in restaurants every night, or to throw away food. 

The authority's other developments -- Harlan House and Walter House -- had their power restored Thursday night, Panto said. He said much of the neighborhood around Bushkill House was still in the dark.

When it comes to Met-Ed, "we're like everybody else," Pambianchi said. "We're at their mercy."

Jay Bell November 03, 2012 at 06:10 AM
Disaster relief definitely needs to be afforded to these elder citizens asap. www.firebrandcentral.com

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