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Queens Chronicle

Pipeline rulings may affect Belmont arena

National Grid called approval essential to project; company refiles in NY, NJ

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019 10:30 am

On June 5, the state of New Jersey rejected an application by Oklahoma-based Williams Companies to build a proposed 37-mile natural gas pipeline across New York Harbor and link up with infrastructure in Breezy Point; New York State did so on May 15.

Williams has resubmitted permits to both states — and the outcome could have an impact on the proposed hockey arena for the New York Islanders, hotel and shopping complex at Belmont Park that has residents and elected officials of Eastern Queens concerned about future traffic nightmares.

The project has been awarded to New York Arena Partners, a consortium that inlcudes the Islanders and Sterling Equities, which is controlled by the Wilpon family, which owns the New York Mets.

The plans call for the complex to be powered by natural gas, but a letter from National Grid to Sterling Equities last Nov. 9 stated that “Supplying firm service (365 days) for this Project is contingent on the successful and timely approval and permitting of the Northeast Supply Enhancement project.”

And shortly after New York rejected the pipeline permit, National Grid declared a moratorium on processing new applications for gas service on Long Island.

In an email to the Chronicle, Jack Sterne, a spokesman for the Empire State Development Corp., said they do not se the pipeline impasse as an obstacle.

“We are confident the Belmont Redevelopment Project can move forward regardless of the pipeline’s status," he wrote. "Our experts continue to work with the development team to explore all alternative options — efforts which will be outlined in our Final Environmental Impact Statement.”

Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) said the natural gas issue didn’t come up last week when he attended a meeting with state officials continuing to work on traffic impacts on Eastern Queens.

“It wasn’t mentioned at all,” he said in a telephone interview.

Caught in the middle appears to be Gov. Cuomo, who is supporting the arena project but has been opposed to several recent natural gas infrastructure projects.

In an email, Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton said that the company has refiled in both states.

“We strongly believe the discrete technical issues raised on May 15, 2019, by the [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] were addressed in our previous application and, in this application, we have provided additional information showing that these issues have been addressed ...”

The email said that includes additional contaminant modeling data for copper and mercury that demonstrates compliance with applicable water quality standards including further explanation of the pipeline’s construction schedule that complies with the time of year restrictions for Atlantic sturgeon and winter flounder; a mitigation plan detailing the pipeline’s proposed compensatory mitigation for project-related impacts; and documentation that the project will facilitate a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation anticipates a ruling on the new Williams application on or before May 17, 2020.

The Islanders are planning to be in their new building in time for the National Hockey League’s 2021-22 season. NHL officials did not reply to a request for comment on any concerns they might have over possible delays in construction.

This article has been updated to include a comment from the Empire State Development Corp. which was inadvertently omitted from the original story.

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