Not all heroes wear capes

Video Credit: NBC New York

I am a wife and mother of two daughters and live in Livingston, New Jersey. On May 15, I had a traumatic experience that changed my life. With some luck – and most importantly, the help of a stranger – my story has a happy ending. Continue reading

Building strong cities means building strong partnerships

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of standing with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Councilman Joe McCallum and other officials at an event at PSE&G’s new Fairmount Heights electrical switching station in the city’s West Ward. Although I have attended numerous dedications to celebrate completion of energy infrastructure over the years, this one was a unique opportunity for me – and PSE&G — on a number of fronts.

First and foremost, we had gathered to unveil more than a dozen specially crafted works of art installed on the protective wall that surrounds this new station. The “art wall” is a 30-foot-high canvas for 14 internationally accomplished artists – about half from Newark – whose works now beautify a single square block. The station’s unique promenade also invites people to visit and experience the artwork – turning the site into a destination for the community, city and beyond.

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But when a hundred or so people gathered on that April morning, we collectively celebrated more than completion of the art wall, and the modern switches, breakers and transformers that lay beyond it. We joined with the community to celebrate the partners and partnerships that have made this project possible.

We hailed the success of a local hiring program. With the help of our contractors, we met our commitment to ensure that at least 30 percent of the work hours would be performed by local residents – including females, people of color and those living in the West Ward. As a result of their employment, two workers secured their union books; two were able to buy their first homes; three people were trained in construction site management, and yet another – fully trained in construction safety – has been tapped for other projects. 

In addition to jobs, we also celebrated the more than $12 million that has been put into the local economy through local contracts and spending on everything from food vendors and hardware stores to local trucking companies. The project was managed by a local, minority-owned architectural and construction management firm.

As Mayor Baraka and others noted, the Fairmount Heights switching station enabled us to put a check mark in multiple “win” columns – jobs, supplier spend, community benefits and, of course, electric system reliability and resiliency.

For PSE&G, being a strong community partner is nothing new. It’s in our DNA to do more than merely maintain the pipes and wires that provide homes and businesses with safe, reliable electricity and gas. We donate to charitable causes, encourage employees to volunteer, and support local economies.

PSE&G serves 300 municipalities – including eight of the state’s 10 largest cities by population. Collectively, these eight urban centers are home to about 1.2 million people who depend on our cities to be the kind of places in which they want to live, work and raise a family.

I believe we can – and should – do more to strengthen our cities and help them solve some of the challenges they face.

It starts with asking local leaders and officials, “How can we be helpful? What kind of mutually beneficial partnership can we develop?”

I expect the answers will be focused on how we might hire local talent to help construct energy infrastructure, or procure more products from local vendors. Perhaps it’s working with educators to support STEM programs that are preparing our future energy workforce. Maybe the focus is on how a city might attract a large, Internet-based corporation to locate there. Or it could be as straightforward as having one of our energy efficiency experts audit a municipal building and recommend ways to save energy and money.

The ideas will undoubtedly be as different at the cities themselves. But the end game should be a partnership that advances sustainable growth, supports community development and fosters corporate citizenship – all while supporting PSE&G’s efforts to maintain and upgrade its infrastructure, like we did in Newark’s West Ward.

Effective partnerships don’t come easy – nor do they happen overnight. Although PSE&G employees engage with municipal leaders all the time, we are in the early stages of creating an urban plan or model that will further guide our conversations and drive a thoughtful approach to solving issues.

I personally look forward to meeting with municipal officials during the coming months to find new ways to engage people and communities, strengthening PSE&G’s ability to live up to our founder’s credo for the company he named Public Service – “to make New Jersey a better place to live and to work.”

Fort Delaware’s place in our energy future

Pea Patch Island was, in the beginning, a mostly forgotten mound in the middle of the Delaware River. Through the earliest years of American history, the island was so small and unassuming that neither New Jersey nor Delaware were concerned with which state claimed ownership.

But that all changed two centuries ago, right after the War of 1812, when the island became a focal point for our young nation’s security. Construction lasted many years, but the result was Fort Delaware, a pentagon-shaped fortification that, along with Fort Mott in Pennsville, New Jersey, and Fort DuPont in Delaware City, Delaware, established a three-pronged defense of Philadelphia and its critically important harbor from enemy ships.

The attack on Philadelphia never came, however. So during the Civil War, Fort Delaware was put to more productive use as a Union POW camp for 32,000 captured Confederate soldiers. Once the War Between the States was over, the fort remained active but quiet through World Wars I and II. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that Fort Delaware began its new life as a historical site and tourist attraction.

On April 27, Delaware state officials formally dedicated Fort Delaware’s newly installed solar array – made possible through the state’s longstanding partnership with PSEG and the company’s donation of 700 solar panels.

Fort Delaware’s story is one of shifting identities. Here at PSEG, we know all about that.

For most of our 115-year history, Public Service was a traditional poles-and-wires company, providing customers with electricity that was generated using fossil fuels.

PSEG has donated 700 solar panels to power Fort Delaware State Park, replacing an old diesel generator damaged during Superstorm Sandy with a new, renewable source of year-round electricity. The new solar installation was dedicated during a ceremony in Delaware City, Delaware, on April 27, 2018.

But today, PSEG has earned a national reputation and a new identity as a leader in clean energy. We have invested nearly $2 billion in solar energy – including PSEG Solar Source, which has developed 23 utility-scale solar farms in 14 states (including the largest solar farm in Delaware), and Solar 4 All, an award-winning program that builds solar energy facilities on old landfills and brownfields, putting these forgotten spaces back to productive use.

PSEG’s donated solar panels were installed with the help of state and federal grants. The new solar installation replaces the island’s previous source of electricity – an old diesel generator that was damaged during Superstorm Sandy – and will provide the state park with approximately $20,000 worth of clean energy per year.

In previous seasons, the generator burned 180 barrels of diesel fuel per year to power the state park. The drums of fuel were brought to the island by boat – which was not only inefficient, but also presented both environmental and safety concerns.

By converting to solar energy, Fort Delaware State Park now has access to clean, efficient and more affordable power year-round, enabling heat, lights, security cameras and dehumidifiers to run throughout the winter months.

The result is a win for the environment and a win for the people of Delaware.

At PSEG, we’re proud of our clean energy leadership. That’s also true in our home state of New Jersey, where we not only are the leading developer of solar energy but also, as the operators of the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants, the state’s leading generator of carbon-free electricity.

And we’re working closely with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to pursue the state’s clean energy goals – including initiatives to expand energy efficiency, promote the use of electric vehicles and contribute to the development of offshore wind resources.

PSEG has enjoyed a long-lasting public-private partnership with the state of Delaware. We’re excited to continue that partnership and support the sustainability of Fort Delaware by merging Civil War history with 21st-century science to provide safe, clean and efficient solar power that also helps the state reduce its carbon footprint.

How a building changed my life

Jhakeyda Floyd (center) with her teammates Ed Simpson (left) and Brendon Thomas, who worked with her as contractors on the Safety Watcher team.

I was born and raised in Newark.  In fact, I have lived here my whole life.  For a while, I lived in an apartment building that overlooked an empty lot at the corner of Littleton Avenue and West Market Street in Newark’s West Ward.  A long-closed factory used to be there, and after it was demolished the land remained vacant for a long time.

At the time, I was working three jobs to provide for my two daughters, Keziah and Jaziah, and my son, Zion.  I was a security guard at one of my jobs, and when I noticed that a fence had gone up around the vacant lot and a security guard station had been placed there, I went to see if could get a job as a guard.  I learned that PSE&G was planning to put a new switching station at the site to improve the local electric system.  At first many residents expressed concerns about the plan, but after many meetings with local residents, community groups and elected officials, PSE&G obtained approval to build the new station.

As part of the agreement PSE&G made with the City of Newark, the company and its general contractor on the project, Jingoli & Sons, created a job training program to prepare local residents for jobs in the construction industry.  I am one of the almost 100 Newark residents who were trained under the program, and three years ago I began working as a contractor Safety Watcher at that very station – the Fairmount Heights Switching Station.

A view of the plaza at the Fairmount Heights Switching Station. A colorful mosaic can be seen on the wall in the background.

To prepare me for the job I received many hours of OSHA-approved training in construction job-site safety. My job was to keep a close eye on the workers there to ensure that they were performing their work safely and keeping themselves at safe distances from electric equipment and other hazards.  When I reported to work that first day, the site was just an empty lot in the earliest stages of active construction. At first I was concerned that the predominantly male work force would be reluctant to take instructions from a woman, but as they got to know me and came to understand that I had their safety at heart, they were very accepting. I like to say that when someone pushed back, I would just use my ‘mommy voice.’  It never failed.

Over time, the station began to take shape.  The building that houses the switching equipment went up, the station equipment and electric circuits were installed and the building was placed in service.  Finally, earlier this month a decorative art wall surrounding the building was dedicated at a ceremony attended by PSE&G executives, local residents, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other officials, and the artists whose works grace the walls.  What had been an eyesore just a few short years ago is now a beautiful building housing a functioning switching station. The West Ward is better for it. Newark is better for it.  And I am better for it.

A portion of the art wall surrounding the Fairmount Heights Switching Station.

My friends on the PSE&G team that managed the project told me that they always get a special feeling of pride and satisfaction when a project they have been working on is finally completed.  Now, having seen this project through from start to finish, I understand exactly what they mean. I will never look at this building without thinking, “I helped build this.”

When I came to work here I was struggling financially and living in a high crime area where I was afraid to take my children out to play.  Thanks to this opportunity, I now own my home in Newark (where else?) and my children can now safely play in their own backyard.

Yes, I helped build that building.  But the building also helped me to build a better life for me and my children.

Coding Future Leaders

Adah and Girls Who Code North Star Academy Graduates

Walk into any neighborhood and you will quickly learn about the types of people who create it; the “nosy neighbor,” the “corner store comedian,” the “grumpy old man,” the “unofficial neighborhood watch,” the list is infinite. It’s these people who give each community and neighborhood its own unique identity.

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Look Up!


Walk around any neighborhood and look up.  Chances are you’ll see a utility pole with wires and other equipment. And for good reason. Utility poles dot the landscape of every town around the state and most of the country. They form the highway above us that keeps everyday life in order.  In fact, there are about 180 million utility poles across the United States – that’s about one pole for every other person in the country.

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