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Queens Chronicle

Locals, Pols & Shulman Declare War On NYPA Plan At LIC Rally

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Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2001 12:00 am

It seemed as though the entire Long Island City community turned out for the rally Monday night organized by Borough President Claire Shulman to oppose the New York Power Authority’s plan to site two energy generating turbines on the Western Queens waterfront.

Young students, lifelong community members, television stars, corporate executives, developers, realtors, educators and politicians filled the second floor room of the CitiCorp building, some of them holding up signs that said “NYPA condemns L.I.C. waterfront” and “take the power to the people in Manhattan.”

Astoria resident and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone stood at the podium to address NYPA, though the company sent no representative to the highly publicized meeting.

“How dare you come and place these things without even talking to us,” he said. “What a disgrace.”

Vallone pointed out the rise in energy costs over the past year, and told the crowd that energy companies have never had it so good.

“They’re making so much money it’s sickening,” he said. “At whose expense?”

Vallone and Borough President Shulman stressed that the city’s energy crises did not “happen overnight” and criticized both Con Edison and NYPA for looking to establish quick-fix solutions instead of creating a comprehensive plan.

Queens, they said, should not pay for NYPA’s bad planning.

It was also repeatedly stated that Queens already produces approximately 50 percent of the city’s total energy.

“We could have said to the PA ‘we’re doing our share—go away,’” Shulman said. “But we didn’t. We tried to work with them.”

Shulman was referring to her attempt to offer the agency several other sites for the turbines, which each have a 150-foot-high smokestack.

But, the PA was not interested in even a serious consideration of the alternative sites, she said.

Congressman Joseph Crowley talked about the recent renaissance of the Long Island City area.

“For a long time Long Island City was a neglected waterfront,” he said. “Now a great deal of time, money and energy has gone into helping the community revive itself. We can’t see those efforts destroyed by the bad planning of the Power Authority.”

“Let me tell you what it’s like to work with the Power Authority,” said Peter Vallone Jr., son of the City Council Speaker and pro bono legal counsel for the CHOKE coalition, a group formed specifically to fight plans to place an indeterminate number of power plants in the Astoria/Long Island City area. “No one has a comprehensive plan because no one is in charge there.”

Anthony Gigantiello, president of the coalition, echoed that sentiment.

“The PA is just a state agency that’s running amuck,” he said.

Michael Zarin, attorney for Silvercup Studios, said that he believes NYPA is using the deregulation laws in ways they weren’t intended for. He stressed NYPA’s unwillingness to even discuss alternatives to the siting plan it announced on November 22nd.

“The worst thing is NYPA’s refusal to make any serious study of any of the five alternative sites,” he said. “The law was not meant to be a unilateral negotiation between NYPA and itself.”

The borough president, the CHOKE coalition and Silvercup have been discussing plans for various lawsuits against NYPA, should the company attempt to go ahead with the waterfront site.

Actor Lorraine Bracco, who plays a psychiatrist on the HBO show “The Sopranos,” which is filmed at Silvercup, said if the studio’s plan for a new studio were scrapped, thousand of jobs could be lost.

She said New York City is not the epicenter of film production that it once was.

“I work at Silvercup,” she said. “As a New York actor who wants to stay here I have to say that New York has been losing so much work. We are desperate for studio space here.”

Residents from CityLights, the only building so far completed as part of the massive Queens West Development Project in Hunters Point.

Residents in the luxury co-op building say they’ve taken pride in their home, themselves arranging to have the top of the building lit at night.

They said that since Queens West is partly a state-run project, they could not understand how the state could do something to harm the project’s future by allowing the pre-fab turbines to be placed nearby.

The senior class president at Long Island City High School talked about the effects area pollution has had on her friends and classmates. She told stories of the high incidents of asthma at the school.

She said no one told the students, who can already see the nearby Ravenswood generating station on Vernon Boulevard from their school windows, that a new facility was to be sited even nearer the school.

“We didn’t even know about this,” she said. “It’s awful and it affects us so much. We want our voices heard.”

Public opposition to the plan to locate the pre-fabricated turbines on Vernon Boulevard has reached a fever pitch since NYPA made its first announcement on November 22nd.

Many locals heard about the plan only through an article printed in the New York Times, which stated that NYPA had finished an environmental review process for the site and was only waiting for an air permit.

The Western Queens neighborhoods of Astoria and Long Island City already contain three large-scale power plants. Proposals for four more plants are in the works, plus the two smaller generators NYPA is planning to site in the same vicinity on Vernon Boulevard.

Opposition has focused on the turbine project because, say vocal activists, it is the last straw.

As no environmental review process was completed for the dual-turbine project, due to the state’s decision to allow NYPA to avoid going through the Article 10 process, many claim the company behaved in an underhanded fashion.

Any facility that functions at 80 megawatts or above must go through the state Siting Board, which is part of the Article 10 process set up by Governor Pataki as part of the statewide energy deregulation that started in 1997.

The two turbines are each capable of 47-megawatt production, equalling a total output of 94 megawatts.

But in a move that has been hotly contested, NYPA received state approval to skip board procedures by promising that it would operate the facilities at a combined level of only 79.9 megawatts.

An enraged community, many of whom have been part of the massive economic and development renaissance of Long Island City, which includes the Queens West Development Project, say they’re watching all their work and investments on the verge of being lost.

Stuart Suna, president of Silvercup Studios, had been planning to build an additional studio on a piece of property the studio owns immediately adjacent to the site NYPA plans to use for its turbines.

Suna has announced that if the turbines are sited, Silvercup will be unable to build the studio there.

In its defense, NYPA claims that the city is facing an eminent energy shortage and must site the pre-fab generators, of which it bought 10 to be placed throughout the city, by June 1st.

The borough president and other local officials have offered the company various alternative sites in Queens, to avoid destroying the careful development of the area’s long-undeveloped waterfront, but NYPA has been unwilling to seriously consider these sites, stating that the reason for this is the lack of time before the June deadline.

But apparently that answer has not appeased the population of Long Island City, who turned out in the hundreds for the Monday night rally, which lasted for hours.

Joe Conley, chairperson of Community Board 2, said he planned to hold another meeting at CitiCorp in two weeks to celebrate NYPA’s agreement to back out of its Vernon Boulevard site.

“If there’s one thing Community Boards 1 and 2 love, it’s a good fight.”

Welcome to the discussion.