Residents oppose new power plants in LIC

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"This is very disturbing to me and I assure you a number of lawsuits will be filed in this case," Shulman told some 300 concerned residents who piled into the auditorium of PS 76 in Long Island City last Thursday for a public hearing held by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The two generators, each with a 140-foot stack, are planned for 42-30 Vernon Blvd., on the former site of the Kerr-McGee site. They would have a combined output of 79.9 megawatts of power.

The plants will have "no perceptible impact" and "no impact at all on public health," said Steven Kass, an environmental lawyer who spoke on behalf of the New York Power Authority. Others, however, vehemently disagreed.

A major concern to many of the politicians and area residents who testified against the plants was the lack of an independent environmental impact study on the New York Power Authority's project. Others expressed concern that the NYPA proposal would thwart years of effort to develop Queens' waterfront at a time when plans, such as the proposed Silvercup Studio expansion and 6,300 units of new housing, were just beginning to take root.

"The power plants would produce a minuscule .1 megawatt under the level that triggers a full environmental review," Shulman told residents. "A review is required because there are inherent environmental impacts that must be addressed and which inevitably affect the surrounding area."

Her point was vividly reinforced by audience members donning white, cotton face masks bearing skulls and crossbones.

A resident of Roosevelt Island, Patrick Stewart, poured the dusty residue of a neighbor's windowsill onto the floor and said, "I'd like to discuss cancer." He cited studies tying electromagnetic fields to cancer in humans and animals and called upon the city, state and federal governments to make that cancer research available. "I think they owe us that," he said.

Others decried the speed with which NYPA appeared to be pushing the plan through as it tries to meet a June 1, 2001 deadline. NYPA has cited the city's growing electrical needs as the impetus behind its accelerated schedule.

But Ashok Gupta, senior energy economist of the National Resource Defense Council, an environmental group, said these claims have yet to be substantiated.

"Nothing has been provided to us to demonstrate that need," he said. "And the issue of alternatives has not been discussed."

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) read a statement from the congressman expressing his belief that NYPA was using "loopholes" to move the project forward. State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) took issue with NYPA's repeated claim that the plants would be temporary.

"They told that to the people of Staten Island when they put in Fresh Kills in 1940," said Nolan, referring to the city landfill that is about to be closed 60 years later. She vowed to draft a new bill for along with Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) that would require a review of a proposed power plant site's current environmental condition.

Long Island City and Astoria are already home to four electric plants: Astoria Plant, Poletti Power Plant, Ravenswood Generating Station and Astoria Gas Turbines. The area also has a high level of asthma attacks that the Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment, or CHOKE, claimed is linked to the plants.

"Did you know that in Manhattan there is not one facility proposed?" said Shulman of the 10 proposed plants to be scattered throughout the city by NYPA. "But we," she told residents, "seem to be expendable."

Posted 7:17 pm, October 10, 2011
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