Judge halts LIC power generators

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State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Golia has ordered the New York Power Authority to halt construction on a Vernon Boulevard power generating facility, finding that the agency failed to take a “hard look” at the possible environmental impact of the two generators.

    In his decision Wednesday morning, Golia granted the permanent injunction requested by Silvercup Studios in a suit filed late January and voided the three-year permit for the plants issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

    NYPA had issued what is called a negative declaration in the fall indicating the power plants would not have a significant impact on the surrounding environment. The declaration enabled NYPA to avoid a lengthy environmental review process, which would have made it impossible to meet a self-imposed June 1 deadline.

But Golia found that the agency “conducted its review with an eye towards approving the project and commencing construction no later than January 2001” and therefore failed to conduct research to back up its claim that the plants would not significantly affect the environment.

NYPA claims these and eight other generators being placed on sites across the city are necessary to stave off a potential power crisis this summer.

Silvercup, a television and film studio that produces such programs as “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,” said the generators would thwart their plans to expand onto studio-owned property adjacent to the generator site. Golia did not consider Silvercup’s plans in his decision, however, noting they are “in their infancy.”

Silvercup was joined in the suit by a lengthy list of public officials and community groups that insist NYPA acted improperly in its rush to have the generators running by June 1.

NYPA has been widely criticized for performing an inadequate environmental review, failing to involve the community, and placing all of its generators in low-income minority communities.

In a letter sent to Borough President Claire Shulman last week before Golia’s decision came down, KeySpan Chief Executive Officer Robert Catell had expressed an interest in purchasing the two generators from NYPA once their three-year permit expires. But the judge has now voided that permit.

“We have done the initial design work and could envision KeySpan acquiring the Vernon Boulevard facilities and relocating them to our Ravenswood site,” Catell wrote.

Moving the generators a few blocks north to Ravenswood would enable Silvercup to move ahead with plans to expand its studios to the land next to the Vernon Boulevard generation site.

Shulman spokesman Dan Andrews said the borough president strongly supports KeySpan’s proposal.

“She thinks it’s a win-win situation,” he said. “KeySpan would get two new clean operating generators and have a net increase in megawatts generated under this proposal ... and Silvercup would be able to build.”

Shulman has loudly denounced NYPA’s choice of Vernon Boulevard as a threat to the borough’s ongoing efforts to develop its western waterfront.

Other community leaders demand more than relocation to resolve the dispute.

“The only way that would really satisfy us is if they did take over those generators and those would displace the existing generators or some type of displacement of the larger generators,” said Tony Gigantiello, president of CHOKE, a community group that has actively protested the power plants.

Although NYPA originally assured local residents the generators would be temporary, their admission at a March 22 Assembly hearing that the generators may be permanent led local politicians to denounce the power authority for deceiving the community.

NYPA spokesman Louis Rodriguez said he could not discuss KeySpan’s proposal because of negotiations with Silvercup.

“Anything is possible. That’s all I can tell you at this point,” he said.

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

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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