Gianaris, Vallone protest plan to replace closed Poletti Project

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Astoria's elected officials said they were outraged that the state's Power Authority approved a new power plant for the neighborhood, arguing that western Queens residents already breathe in unhealthy air from five plants.

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) joined a crowd of neighborhood residents along 20th Street in Astoria Saturday for a protest after the Power Authority announced last week that it had awarded a contract to Astoria Energy LLC to build the plant.

Under the 20-year contract, Astoria Energy would construct a clean, natural gas-fueled generating plant to make up for the closing down of the notorious Charles Poletti Power Project in January 2010.

The authority has already started up one clean and energy-efficient 500-megawatt plant to replace the Poletti plant, deemed the city's worst polluter, on Dec. 31, 2005. Astoria Energy's new plant is expected to open by summer 2011, NYPA said.

But elected officials said western Queens provides an estimated 60 percent of the city's power and blasted the authority for approving a sixth plant for the region.

"The Power Authority should be ashamed of itself," Gianaris said. "It will now be directly responsible for increased rates of asthma and lung disease affecting this overburdened community."

He said Astoria residents already suffer from power plants and traffic woes stemming from traffic to Rikers Island and airplane noise from LaGuardia Airport.

Vallone called on the state to investigate the awarding of the contract on the grounds that another power plant could endanger the health of Astoria residents.

"It's not a matter of 'not in our back yard,'" he said. "Our back yard is already full. The callous bureaucrats at the NYPA have decided to stick another dagger in the lungs of the children of northwest Queens."

The Power Authority said Astoria Energy's power plant proposal was chosen out of 30 bids to supply city energy. The new plant would provide energy to schools, hospitals, subways, commuter trains and public housing, NYPA said.

NYPA President Roger Kelley said the plant would use a combined-cycle technology in which hot exhaust gas normally lost in the combustion process is captured by generators to produce additional electricity. The facility will consume 30 percent less fuel per unit of electricity than a standard power plant, he said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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