Weehawken residents got a scare when a traffic light pole fell at the intersection of John F. Kennedy Blvd. East — known to locals as Boulevard East — and 47th Street on Nov. 2.
For John Wyzalek, it was something of a warning sign.
He said without success, he’s been trying to avoid another potential danger on the opposite corner.
“I have contacted PSE&G about a utility pole that is leaning,” said Wyzalek, who serves as the president of a nine-unit condo association on that block. “The base of the pole is about 7 feet away from the building and the top looks like it’s about 3.5 feet away from the building.”
He said the neighborhood is very windy, and he’s had concern about that utility pole since Hurricane Irene in 2011. Wyzalek said the lean has become more pronounced over the years, and his concern continued through Superstorm Sandy.
“I was surprised it didn’t come down then,” he said.
He said he’s called PSE&G about the pole at least four times since the spring, but he never wrote down the dates of his calls.
“I have not heard anything back,” he said, noting that he knew at least one other neighbor has made calls about the same pole.
This summer, he said, he noticed the pole was leaning even further towards the building. He said he called PSE&G again, but nothing seemed to be done.
“So when the traffic pole came down, I thought that I have to take care of that utility pole because that could be next.”
But Wyzalek said he didn’t have high hopes that anything would be done until it was too late.
That’s because there is a tag on the pole saying it was inspected in 2014, he said, but the pole was still leaning. Given that, he said, it was apparent to him that PSE&G wasn’t planning to do anything about pole.
He decided he needed someone else on the case.
“As this pole is so close to the building and we live in a windy area, please help us get this pole fixed,” he asked Bamboozled in an email.
We reached out to PSE&G to see if it would take a fresh look.
While we waited to hear back, it seems the pole started getting attention from more people in the neighborhood.
The day after Wyzalek contacted us, on Nov. 18, Wyzalek said, he received a call from Weehawken councilman Robert Sosa.
“He said he just noticed the utility pole and asked how long it’s been that way. I told him a few years,” Wyzalek said. “He said he would have a crew work on it.”
The next day when Wyzalek came home, he said he looked at the pole and saw that someone had secured a cable between the pole and the traffic light pole — the same traffic light pole that had blown down a few weeks prior.
Wyzalek said he wasn’t sure who put up the cable, but he questioned the judgment given the wind and the past problems for the traffic light pole.
After a day, Wyzalek said he and his neighbor both received calls from PSE&G.
“He told me the pole will be removed and replaced next week. PSE&G would put up the new pole and transfer its equipment, and Verizon would come transfer its equipment and take away the old pole,” he said.
We reached out to PSE&G about the decision to replace the pole, and to ask why previous calls from residents didn’t lead to action.
Spokeswoman Brooke Fisher said PSE&G records show it received a call on April 4 from a Weehawken customer who was concerned about a leaning utility pole.
“The same day, we sent a troubleshooter to assess the situation. The troubleshooter determined that the pole did not require immediate repair,” Fisher said in an email. “The job was referred to our engineering department, which concluded that the pole was not a hazard, but should eventually be replaced.”
She said a work order was issued and sent to PSE&G’s scheduling department, which she said “continuously prioritizes jobs based on safety and need.”
After receiving two additional calls in the past week from concerned customers, she said, PSE&G scheduled the pole replacement for the week of Nov. 24.
We asked about the other calls Wyzalek said he’s made to the utility, but Fisher said it only had the one call on record.
We asked who customers should contact if they see a problem.
“PSE&G maintains 850,000 utility poles and conducts regular inspection of poles for decay,” Fisher said. “We do count on and appreciate our customers being additional `eyes and ears’ in the field, and encourage them to call in any concerns they have about the safety of PSE&G equipment to 1-800-436-7734.”
The remaining mystery was the cable that was put up between the pole and the traffic light pole, so we asked Fisher if it was PSE&G.
While she checked, we reached out to Councilman Sosa, wondering if it was his handiwork.
Nope. It wasn’t him or the township, he said, but he said he did contact PSE&G and was glad to hear the pole was being replaced.
“When you have something that could be injurious or a problem, there’s no compromising,” Sosa said. “It’s just something that has to get done right away.”
He said he’d be on the lookout to make sure the pole is replaced.
Then PSE&G got back to us, saying it added the cable.
“While the utility pole is safe, we made the replacement a priority and tied off the pole to help alleviate customer concerns,” she said.
In any case, Wyzalek said it was good news. He said he didn’t know if PSE&G responded so quickly because of Bamboozled’s call, or the councilman’s call, or just because of calls from the residents, but he’s glad the pole will finally be replaced.
“I just want to thank everyone who helped,” he said. “I’m glad it’s being taken care of.”
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com.