An Old San Juan resident’s thoughts on some residents’ plight trying to come out of 68 days of darkness
Old San Juan had been without power for a month and change when a coalition of residents and businesses staged a public protest in Plaza Colon, the main town square. The next day, twenty trucks from the state-owned power utility, @aeeonline, showed up for the first time after the storm hit to begin restoration work. Around two weeks thereafter, crews from @ConEdison, the New York power company, came down with their shiny trucks and equipment to assist in the repair of a significant percentage of the electrical facilities in Puerto Rico and started their mission to bring power back to the Old City.
In recent days, the government and @aeeonline were quick to claim that “Old San Juan had been lit up”, making the caveat that there were still a few isolated “pockets” in town where the power had not been completely restored.
That is not true. The areas without electricity in Old San Juan are considerable.
I took it upon myself to verify the areas without service. Armed with a pen and a pad, accompanied by another OSJ resident, we went block by block, interviewing residents, counting electric meters, checking the classification of each property, and writing down the number of apartments, housing and/or commercial units in the dark.
At the end of the day, our estimates yielded results of no less than 450 residential units and around 20 commercial uses that still lack power. The affected areas as of November 27, 2017 are marked on the map below.
The large areas in the periphery of town are not residential in nature; they include two art schools, the Olympic Committee, a library, a cultural center, among others.
The interesting findings though, are those relating to the “pockets” of darkness located right in the middle of the map. To wit: parts of Sol, Cruz, San Justo and San Sebastian Streets.
Five blocks within San Justo Street that are in the dark only have one little bar and 97 apartments or residential units. Six blocks affected within Cruz Street have 2 bars, one restaurant and 98 residential units. Two blocks at the beginning of San Sebastian Street have no commercial establishments and 15 residential units while the two blocks at the end of that same street only have 36 residential units. Likewise, four blocks of Sol Street have 137 housing units, and only 3 commercial operations.
In sum, most of the pockets in darkness that persist to this day within Old San Juan comprise 19 blocks that contain 383 residential housing units and only 8 commercial outlets.
Our exercise proved productive inasmuch as it helped us identify what seems to be a pattern. Most of the affected buildings do not host operating commercial units.
Perhaps the most obvious example of the unfortunate fate of the residents of these streets is a specific block in San Sebastian Street. Out of its 4 buildings, the two that have a bar and restaurant area have electricity whereas the two that house 12 and 16 apartments, respectively, don’t.
This is how that block’s configuration looks. The buildings marked in yellow have electric service while the ones in black don’t.
When the owner of one of the residential buildings inquired as to why this was, a lineman casually replied that it was an ‘enigma’.
The standard definition of “enigma” is something hard to understand or explain. I don’t think this situation qualifies as one because @aeeonline had publicly admitted immediately after the storm that the utility would give priority to commercial facilities when reconnecting the electric service. http://www.noticel.com/ahora/residencias-no-estn-al-tope-de-prioridades-de-la-aee/628153564
Sixty-nine days into this debacle, @aeeonline’s treatment of the residents of Old San Juan adds insult to injury. Today, barely any brigades are seen working in the town. Certainly none have been seen in the past weeks in the streets marked in the map that comprise the pockets of darkness. Residential communities throughout the entire island are being connected to the electric service. Barely any @ConEdison workers or trucks are seen in the old town.
The government’s outlook and performance towards Old San Juan residents has been insensible and immoral, not to mention discriminatory inasmuch as other residential communities — even within San Juan — have been granted a prioritized electrical service.
One thing about all of this is certain to me: there’s nothing enigmatic about it.