NYC installing ten temporary generators to meet power needs next summer : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

New York Times December 26, 2000

Neighborhoods React Angrily to Power Plan

By SARAH KERSHAW A state agency's plans to install10 temporary generators around the city to meet power needs next summer is facing staunch opposition, particularly in Queens,where community and business leaders fear a setback to development taking place along the waterfront of Long Island City.

One of the city's largest television and film facilities, Silvercup Studios, said it would abandon a plan to build studios on the East River waterfront in Long Island City because of the proximity to two of the planned gas turbine generators, which it fears would be too noisy.

Opponents say the New York Power Authority railroaded its proposal through the application process and failed to conduct even a cursory environmental study. But authority officials say they have met legal requirements and must move quickly, or the city could face a crippling shortage of electricity next summer. A similar shortage was avoided last summer, they added, because temperatures were unusually cool.

The warning did little to ease the concerns of Claire Shulman, the Queens borough president. "If there is a power emergency, I'm happy to do my part," she said. "But I am not going to give them the East River. That is absolutely out."

The generators would be in place for at least two or three years, until private energy companies, taking advantage of the deregulation of the state's power industry, begin to supply electricity from new or rebuilt plants around the city. Proposals for more than a dozen plants from several different companies are in the works, and have touched off opposition from different corners of the city.

The state authority needs the temporary generators to add 400 megawatts to the city's electricity supply, enough to avert blackouts and brownouts for the next two summers and to hold down the cost of electricity until the new permanent plants come on line, officials said. Four are planned for the Bronx, three for Brooklyn, two for Queens, one for Staten Island and one for Islip, on Long Island.

"It was not our intention to site plants near a waterfront," said Michael A. Petralia, a spokesman for the authority. But, he added, there were no alternative locations in Queens that would enable the agency to meet the target installation date of June 1.

Mr. Petralia added that authority officials believe they can resolve any differences with critics. "We think there are ways we might be able to deal with their concerns," he said.

The temporary plants must still be approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which recently held hearings for residents to speak out.

The Long Island City generators are slated for installation on Vernon Boulevard, just south of the Queensboro Bridge on the eastern shore of the East River. Silvercup, whose studios elsewhere in Long Island City are used for production of the HBO television series "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos," had planned a major expansion on the Vernon Boulevard waterfront, studio officials said.

The company had hoped to buy the land where the generators would be installed and, pending a zoning change, hoped to construct more studios, as well as a tower with residential and office space. But the property has been sold to the Power Authority.

An attorney for Silvercup, Michael D. Zarin, said last week that he was preparing to file a lawsuit to block the generators on Vernon Boulevard. Mrs. Shulman and several business leaders said they had proposed alternative sites in Queens that would help meet the increasing demand for electricity without chasing developers away from the waterfront.

"We're not even saying not in our backyard," said Gayle Baron, executive director of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation, which represents 3,000 businesses. "We're saying let's find a place in our backyard rather than prime waterfront."

In Brooklyn, community and environmental groups are also protesting the proposed temporary generators, planned for the Sunset Park waterfront and Williamsburg, saying the neighborhoods are already burdened by pollution. They also contend the plans are unfairly aimed at communities that are largely minority and working class.

The generators would be powered by natural gas and would take up one to one and a half acres. Built by General Electric, each can produce 44 megawatts. They would be the cleanest generators in use in the city in terms of nitrogen oxide emissions, which cause smog and other pollution, the authority said. They would be equipped with muffling devices and could be modified to be still quieter, Mr. Petralia said.

A study of the full environmental impact is not required because the plants would produce just below the threshold to mandate a complete review. Production will be limited to 79.9 megawatts; a review is required at 80 megawatts. Officials at Silvercup Studios said the authority offered to build an enclosure around the Vernon Boulevard generators. But they said the offer was not enough to persuade them to go ahead with plans for a 250,000-square-foot facility with six television studios on the property they already own while trying to buy the parcel where the generators are planned.

"The Power Authority is saying they'll work with us," said Stuart Match Suna, president of Silvercup. "But regardless of what they say, they're wrong. You don't build sound stages next door to jet engines."

-- robert waldrop (, December 27, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ