Vallone, Locals Protest Astoria Power Plant


photo by John DeSio

An angry band of Astorians rallied together Saturday morning in protest of yet another power plant scheduled for construction in their community.

“Here we are again, at the same location, protesting another power plant in Astoria,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., kicking off the news conference just outside the plant’s proposed site on 20th Avenue.

Astoria already has six power plants, said Vallone, and it’s time for other communities to do their part to generate the City’s energy supply.

The recent history of Astoria’s battles over new power plants goes back to 2001, when Astoria Energy, a subsidiary of SCS Energy, was originally given the go-ahead to build a 1,000 megawatt facility in the neighborhood. When the funding for that project failed to materialize, then-Governor George Pataki attempted to use Liberty Bonds to finance it. A lawsuit stopped that plan.

Backroom dealing and political pressure, said Vallone, forced Con Ed to give Astoria Energy a contract for its power, which allowed a 500 megawatt plant to open in Astoria in 2006. A similar contract was awarded to Astoria Energy by the New York Power Authority in April, which will allow the company to build another 500 megawatt plant. Vallone said that despite 30 other proposals to build cheaper power in other areas, and despite the fact that northwest Queens already generates at least 80 percent of the City’s power, Astoria was chosen once again for the new project.

“This is not just smoke and pollution you are smelling,” said Vallone, who called the new plant a “toxic dagger” in the lungs of local children. “This is backroom politics and dirty deals you are smelling.”

Anthony Gigantello, president of the Astoria/Long Island City organization C.H.O.K.E., or Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment; called the power plants bad neighbors who care little for the health and well-being of the community they occupy.

“They’re making tons of money on top of our health,” said Gigantello. “We don’t want them here.”

Gigantello noted that while the new plant has been hailed as a very clean, efficient way to generate power, no power plant can be 100 percent clean. “We have enough pollution here already,” he said. “Our kids cannot afford any more pollution in this area.”

Vallone noted that one justification for the new plant used by its defenders is the closing of the nearby Charles Poletti Power Plant, one of the nation’s dirtiest, which is slated to shut down in 2010. That plant, said Vallone, was closed due to a community lawsuit, has already been replaced and has no bearing on the proposed facility.

He also challenged the Bloomberg administration to be fair, noting that the mayor has called for each borough to have its own waste transfer station. If that’s true, said Vallone, then shouldn’t other neighborhoods also generate their own energy?

“This is not a case of ‘not in my backyard,'” said Vallone. “Our backyard is full.”