NEW YORK (AP) – The blackout that left about 100,000 people without electricity during some of the hottest days of the year all but ended Tuesday, allowing weary Queens residents to start returning to normal after enduring nine days of rotting food and sweltering homes.

Con Edison said fewer than 500 people remained without electricity in Queens as of Tuesday evening.

“In comparison, it’s not a big number,” said Con Edison spokesman Chris Olert. “We serve 9 million people. Of course we want everyone to have power.” Olert said he wasn’t sure when full power would be fully restored.

But for many Queens residents, simply having power again was not enough.

Diana Arjariyawat, a manager at the Thai Pavilion restaurant, said power was restored Tuesday morning and she was finally open for business, but she still had no air conditioning.

“We’re thankful we can at least receive customers,” she said. “But we have to buy produce locally and we don’t have a lot of seafood or meat to work with. It’s not like we’re back to normal business.”

Meanwhile, the first lawsuit against Con Ed over the blackout emerged Tuesday, and the City Council said it would hold its first hearing on the outages Thursday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg continued to remain upbeat about the saga, saying power problems may just be something New Yorkers need to deal with from time to time. He praised residents for how they handled the outages.

“Once again New Yorkers have shown what they’re made of,” he said. “Everybody is sad that it happened, but I think we’ve come out of this as well as we could have and from now on, we’ll find out what happened and do what we can to prevent it.”

Bloomberg was asked to elaborate on his reasons for consistently supporting Con Ed, a favorite target of previous mayors, lawmakers and New Yorkers who have endured power problems over the years. The anger only intensified last Friday when Con Ed revealed that the blackout was 10 times worse than it had originally reported.

At a news conference Monday, the mayor said the company and its CEO deserved a round of thank-yous, eliciting horrified looks on the faces of some state and local lawmakers attending the briefing.

He explained Tuesday that he feels encouragement is more productive than blame.

“Helping people when they’re doing their best, even if the results aren’t what you want, is what you do to get people to come and work for you and give 110 percent, and that’s what this city needs.”

In the lawsuit, Sandra Boyle said her 2-year-old child became ill and she couldn’t get in touch with a doctor for hours because she had no power. She is seeking unspecified damages for emotional and physical distress.

“If it was only me and my husband, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I’m very fed up with the whole thing. In this day and age – it’s not a third-world country that we live in.”

Boyle’s suit claims Con Edison chose to ignore a report filed by state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in 2000 examining the effects of a 1999 blackout in Manhattan and offering suggestions on how to avoid such problems in the future.

Columbia University law professor Catherine Sharkey said it would be tough to win such a suit. Con Edison is protected by a state-approved contract that includes limitations on liability, and a plaintiff must prove Con Edison failed to exercise even the slightest care. “It’s a formidable standard to have to meet,” she said.

Olert would not comment on the suit.

He said the blackout could have been shortened if Con Ed managers had decided to temporarily shut down the area’s network. That would have cut the power to a much larger swath of Queens, but it would have prevented further damage and made it easier to bring all customers back on line more quickly. Con Ed officials defended the decision not to shut down the network.


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