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The battle raging on the western shores of Queens pits a powerful and oftentimes arrogant state-run authority against environmentalists who wont hesitate to exaggerateor to exploit the locals in their war against traditional forms of power. Add to that mix Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), the city council speaker whose dream of becoming the next mayor of the City of New York is rapidly fading and Councilman Steven DiBrienza (D-Brooklyn), who is also fighting the NYPA in his home district. They were joined by executives from Silvercup Studios, where The Sopranos is produced for HBO. The studio had planned to expand and claims it cannot because of the new power plant. Silvercup has asked the courts to stop the construction. That case will be heard this week.
The organizers behind the rally, C.H.O.K.E., or the Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment, came to the rally with little windmills to demonstratetheir search for cleaner forms of energy. Vallone is providing C.H.O.K.E. with legal counsel. The NYPA was portrayed as the bad guys coming to pollute Long Island City with smoke stacks belching poisonous fumes and causing asthma and a host of other diseases. To illustrate their point, the people with the windmills hauled out some mothers of children with asthma as if they were indisputable proof that the existing power plant has caused the sickness and that the new turbines will make things even worse.
Realizing that time is not on its side, NYPA has started construction, perhaps hoping that no judge will block the project once work has begun. This is not a shininghour for NYPA or Gov. Pataki.
NYPA could have and should have worked with Borough Hall to select a better site.
As Borough President Claire Shulman has argued, the new power plant will interfere with plans for major redevelopment in this area that have been in the making for more than 10 years.We also believe that NYPA could have done a better job in seeking public input before making a final selection. But make no mistake about this, the windmill-toting environmentalists and the NIMBYs would have protested any site chosen for the generators, just as they protested the selection of waste transfer locations. Nobody wants a garbage barge or a smokestack in their backyard.
Those who vilify NYPA go too far. It may be true, as DiBrienza argues, that New York City is not on the brink of a crisis like that experienced this year in California where a power shortage forced rolling blackouts. But we believe the NYPA and other experts who say that existing power generators cannot meet the areas growing need for energy. We have far less confidence in the science cited by the windmill crowd.
The NYPA insists that the new plants will be much more environmentally friendly than those built decades ago. Unfortunately, the authority did not make its case before it sent in the bulldozers. We can only hope that the courts will find a middle path that will force the NYPA to build its plant at a site more compatible with needs of this borough without causing delays that could threaten the future of all of Queens to meet its power needs.
Perhaps in the future science will discover ways to produce power at a reasonable cost without the inconvenience of traditional power plants. That day has not arrived. Until it does, Queens needs the new turbines. It is that simple.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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