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Verizon Declares Post-Hurricane Irene Emergency In New York After All

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VERIZON IRENE REPAIRS
AP

The union says it's because of public pressure. The phone giant says it's a "fairly standard" move done because the "timing was right." Whatever the reason, on Thursday Verizon officially declared a state of emergency in New York, four days after Tropical Storm Irene made landfall in the state, and two days after the company said it was "actually in pretty good shape."

The emergency declaration will require employees -- who a union rep said were more than willing to put in extra hours -- to work overtime making storm damage repairs. Thousands on Long Island and in upstate New York are still without landline phone service nearly a week after Irene left a path of downed lines and toppled trees.

A spokesman for Verizon said it was "ridiculous to even suggest" that the emergency was declared in response to the Communications Workers of America's public claims on Tuesday that they were being denied overtime as punishment for a recently abandoned strike.

"Union comments or theatrics don't have an impact on our decision-making process," regional director of media relations John Bonomo said.

"Why did they wait until almost a week after the hurricane to declare emergencies?" CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton shot back.

The outages on Long Island and elsewhere also mean, in some cases, that customers have lost internet and television service provided through Verizon's FiOS plan.

"People who don't have internet or TV service are kind of annoyed that they don't have it, and landline service is important, because as we've seen, when major emergencies occur, cellphones go out," Shelton said.

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