Volume 74, Number 22 | September 29 - October 5 , 2004

Gramercy, Union Sq. lose some phone service after cable melts

On Tues. night, Sept. 21, residents on the East Side of Manhattan, including the Union Sq. and Gramercy Park neighborhoods, noticed noise and buzzing on their phone lines. By Wed., Sept. 22, there had been a loss of phone service throughout a large part of the area.

Verizon workers and cable trucks were seen at several manholes along Irving Pl. on Fri., Sept. 24. According to two Verizon employees, a portion of a cable under Irving Pl., between 17th and 18th Sts., had melted. They believed the cause to be steam from adjacent steam pipes. They estimated that it would take at least a week for a new portion of cable to be replaced and re-spliced.

One worker explained the reason for the delay: a cable can carry over 1,000 phone lines, and once the new cable has been settled underground, each of those lines must be spliced on both ends.

A call to Verizon customer service resulted in an estimate of mid-October for completion of the work. However, both customer service and the workers on the scene thought it might be sooner.

For many longtime area residents, losing phone service brings to mind the massive service outage of the mid-1970s, when a fire at the telephone company’s switching center on Second Ave. and 13th St. knocked out all phone service to a large portion of the East Village and the East Side for two weeks. At the time, portable public telephones were set up in several neighborhoods to provide service.

Now, some residents may have to rely on cell phones for the forseeable future.

Jefferson Siegel

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