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Shulman nears solution for Astoria power plants

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The borough is close to striking a deal with the New York Power Authority to eventually move two generators that have been installed on a coveted site in Long Island City, Borough President Claire Shulman said at a session with the TimesLedger last week.

“We’re very, very close to finalizing the agreement on the power plants,” Shulman said.

Negotiations between NYPA and community leaders have been ongoing for most of a four-month court battle over the two gas turbines NYPA has built on Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, just north of the Queensboro Bridge. The turbines are among 10 generators going up in every borough but Manhattan in what NYPA officials describe as an effort to stave off a power crisis this summer.

NYPA expects the generators to be operating by the end of June, officials said last week.

Shulman has outspokenly criticized the NYPA for setting the generators on the Vernon Boulevard site, which she said sits along a stretch of Queens shoreline that has long been eyed for development.

Shulman had indicated in previous interviews that negotiations hinged upon the designation of a drop-dead date by which NYPA would promise to remove the two generators from the Vernon Boulevard site.

“They will get out by Oct. 31, 2004, when the Poletti is online — which will decrease the emissions that they currently have — or Astoria is on-line,” Shulman said on Friday.

Shulman was referring to two large power plants slated to be built and online by 2004. The Poletti is a new 500-megawatt plant NYPA plans to erect alongside an existing 825-megawatt plant at the intersection of 20th Avenue and 31st Street in Astoria. The other plant is a 1,000-megawatt facility being planned by Astoria Energy for the site currently occupied by Castle Oil at 17-10 Steinway St.

Shulman said NYPA is negotiating three distinct agreements with the city, the borough, and Silvercup Studios to eventually move the generators from their current location.

Silvercup, a television and production studio in Long Island City, initiated a court battle with NYPA in January by filing a lawsuit that contended the generators would impede its efforts to expand its studios onto property adjacent to the power plant. Studio officials have threatened to move out of the state if a compromise is not reached.

Silvercup lawyer Michael Zarin would not say whether an agreement between his clients and NYPA was imminent.

“There’s been ongoing negotiations, but I really wouldn’t say that we’re necessarily close or we’re not close,” Zarin said at the end of last week. “We’ve talked throughout and we don’t have an agreement yet.”

While NYPA spokesman Luis Rodriguez did not comment about the of status of negotiations, he confirmed that the utility plans to remove the Long Island City turbines once larger power plants began operating.

“What we have said all along is that when the larger units are in place and operational, we would remove these two units,” Rodriguez said.

Although Queens Supreme Court Justice Joseph Golia ruled in favor of Silvercup and a coalition of community groups and public officials who joined their suit, the case is now waiting to be heard on appeal in a Brooklyn appellate court.

NYPA will be allowed to continue construction and begin operating the generators until the court renders a decision on the appeal, which it is scheduled to hear June 29.

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

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