Court orders construction on power plants to resume

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By Dustin Brown

Hours after a State Supreme Court judge signed an order halting construction of two power generators in Long Island City, an appellate judge allowed the work to resume until the case is heard by an Appellate Division panel next Thursday.

Silvercup President Stuart Suna hand-delivered a stop-work order issued by Justice Joseph Golia to the Vernon Boulevard site Monday morning, his spokeswoman Meghan Walsh said, which effectively forced the New York Power Authority to cease construction at the site.

The halt was short-lived, however, as Justice Myriam Altman in Brooklyn Appellate Court granted a stay on the stop-work order Monday after NYPA appealed the State Supreme Court decision.

“Our hope was to settle this matter out of court, but all of our attempts have been rejected,” Suna said in a statement. “NYPA is not only gambling with a court decision, but is also jeopardizing thousands of jobs in New York City as Silvercup continues to look at other options in the region for studio expansion.”

Silvercup contends the generators would impede its efforts to expand its studios onto property adjacent to the power plant and has threatened to move out of state if a compromise is not reached.

NYPA officials said Silvercup refused their offer to move the generators from the Vernon Boulevard site in three years.

“The plaintiffs unfortunately and irresponsibly were unwilling to compromise,” said NYPA spokesman Luis Rodriguez. “They wanted us to move the plants in two years or a shorter period of time, knowing very well that the newer plants that are planned for in New York City would not be operational at that time and the city would again be facing a crisis situation.”

NYPA insists these and eight other generators around the city are needed to stave off a power crisis this summer.

According to Golia’s April 4 decision, NYPA would have “to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and conduct its environmental review process in an open and deliberate manner” before moving forward with construction. In its haste to put the generators in place by June 1, Golia found, the Power Authority failed to take a “hard look” at the possible environmental impact of the two generators.

The ruling did not take effect until Monday, however, when Golia finally signed an order requiring NYPA to halt construction on the site.

An order cannot be appealed “until it’s entered into the books of the court,” said Mitch Kaufman, Golia’s law secretary. Thus NYPA lawyers waited Monday morning in the Brooklyn courthouse until the order was filed so they could submit their appeal.

“They’re sitting there waiting right now” Kaufman said less than an hour after the order was signed.

Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, who staunchly opposed building the generators near Silvercup, remained hopeful that both parties would eventually reach a settlement.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Shulman’s spokesman, Dan Andrews, following the stop-work order and before the stay was issued. “We’re continuing to be heavily engaged in negotiations in an effort to get a negotiated settlement of the relocation of the generators.”

Although Kaufman said the stop-work order creates an additional hurdle to reaching a settlement, it is still possible for Silvercup and NYPA to broker a deal.

“As far as the judge is concerned, he’s always willing to help resolve the problems,” Kaufman said. “If they want to settle the case, he will do whatever’s necessary to see that the law will be met in their settlement.”

Keyspan Chief Executive Officer Robert Catell made the possibility of a negotiation more likely last month when he offered to purchase the generators from NYPA and move them a few blocks north to the Ravenswood generating station in a few years. Silvercup lawyer Michael Zarin has indicated that moving the generators from their current location would be a necessary condition of any settlement negotiated by the studios.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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