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Appeals court orders power plant review

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An appellate court has ordered the New York Power Authority to perform an environmental review on the two power generators it recently installed in Long Island City in a ruling that will allow the controversial plants to keep operating until early next year.

The decision, handed up Tuesday by a four-judge panel in an appellate court in Brooklyn, was hailed as a victory by community leaders who have waged a six-month battle to force the Power Authority to study the generators’ impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

NYPA announced late last year its plans to install a total of 10 natural-gas turbines at six sites across the city in an effort to stave off a power crisis this summer.

Silvercup Studios and a coalition of Queens politicians and community leaders filed a suit earlier this year to prevent NYPA from installing the two generators on Vernon Boulevard. The site lies along a stretch of Queens waterfront that local leaders have long considered prime property for development.

Siding with the community, the court has given the Power Authority until Jan. 31, 2002 to issue an environmental impact statement that assesses how the generators may affect the surrounding neighborhood.

“We’ve said all along that they violated the rules and did not provide a proper environmental review before ramming this down the community’s throat,” said Peter Vallone, Jr., the lawyer representing the Coalition to Help Organize a Kleaner Environment, or CHOKE, one of the community groups involved in the suit. “We look forward to a proper environmental study being conducted.”

Representatives of the state agency were not available for comment at press time.

The ruling affirms the decision handed down in April by State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Golia in Queens, who ordered construction on the generators to be halted pending the completion of an environmental impact statement. Shortly after the decision , however, the appellate court in Brooklyn issued a stay on his order, allowing construction to continue until the higher court had ruled in the case.

The appellate ruling said the power plants may have a significant environmental impact on the surrounding neighborhood, including hazardous materials, historical and archaeological resources and neighborhood character.

However, the ruling gives no clear indication as to the ultimate fate of the power plants following the completion of the environmental review. Silvercup has threatened to move from Queens if the Vernon Boulevard site is not eventually vacated by the Power Authority since the studio intends to expand onto property adjacent to the plants.

Silvercup lawyer Michael Zarin said he expects the environmental review will show the site to be inappropriate for the generators and will therefore force NYPA to move them to a different spot.

The court ruled at the same time on another appeal brought by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which sued NYPA earlier this year to force it to conduct environmental reviews for all 10 generators around the city — including the two in Long Island City.

Although the advocacy group lost its case in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, the appellate court ruled in its favor, again ordering the Power Authority to conduct environmental reviews on all of the sites by Jan. 31, 2002.

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

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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