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LIC studio sues to halt generator construction

The lawsuit, supported by a number of elected...

By Chris Fuchs

Silvercup Studios, a keystone of the city’s film industry, filed a lawsuit last week seeking to halt the construction of two power generators that are being built next to their studios in Long Island City.

The lawsuit, supported by a number of elected officials including Borough President Claire Shulman, was brought in State Supreme Court in Jamaica last Thursday, asking the court to enjoin the New York Power Authority, a state energy agency, from building two 44-megawatt generators on Vernon Avenue in Long Island City.

Silvercup Studios at 42-30 Vernon Blvd. is one of the largest film production companies in the city and produces television shows, including “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.”

Meanwhile, two special interest groups were expected to file a lawsuit in State Supreme Court Wednesday in a broader attempt to thwart the citywide construction of six power generators, including the two in western Queens. The authority has said it must begin construction of the generators by June 1 to head off brown-outs and blackouts in the city this summer.

David Von Spreckelsen, director of real estate development for Silvercup, said the studio brought the lawsuit against the NYPA because they believe that the generators, which are being built adjacent to the studios, will hobble their efforts to court prospective clients.

“We own a piece of property next to where they want to build their generators,” he said. “We were going to expand our studio there, and we feel that we can’t expand them because of the noise and vibrations that would come off the generators.”

The judge hearing the lawsuit had issued a temporary restraining order last Thursday on the condition that Silvercup post a $5 million bond, an amount that Von Spreckelsen said the studio was unwilling to spend. The bond, he said, would cover any damages — for instance, loss of construction time — that the New York Power Authority would incur if Silvercup did not win the lawsuit.

Both parties in the lawsuit were expected to meet Thursday for a hearing on whether a preliminary injunction should be issued against the authority, Von Spreckelsen said. A final decision is expected to be reached on Feb. 16, he said, when the judge is scheduled to listen to and rule on the merits of the case.

New York Power Authority officials could not be reached for comment by Tuesday night.

Several Queens elected officials, including members of the City Council and the state Legislature, were named in court papers submitted last Thursday, supporting Silvercup’s lawsuit. In those papers, Shulman said she believed that the waterfront property where the two turbines are being built could be put to better use with some form of economic development.

She added that Queens should have more input in deciding where the generators should be located since the borough currently generates 50 percent of the city’s total power.

For now, Silvercup is not going to put up the $5 million bond to halt the construction because “it is a lot of money,” Von Spreckelsen said. The bond amount, he said, was computed on estimates given by officials of the New York Power Authority, who said that for every day construction is delayed, the authority loses $250,000.

“We determined that there are 30 men on the site,” he said, “and that would mean each person is getting paid $8,000 a day. If that’s the case, we’re all going to apply for jobs down there.”

The two groups that are expected to file a lawsuit Wednesday — the New York Public Interest Research Group and the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest — are seeking to enjoin the New York Power Authority from completing construction on all six generators being built in the city, said Gail Suchman, senior environmental counsel for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

Suchman was unsure whether the lawsuit would be incorporated into the one brought last week by Silvercup Studios.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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