FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Council of the City of New York
Council Member Costa Constantinides, District 22
January 8, 2019
Contact: Terence Cullen
Introduce Bill Forcing City to Examine How Power Plants Can Be Closed
Astoria, N.Y. — Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, today joined with fellow Astoria leaders and environmental activists to call on New York City to assess whether gas-fired power plants can be closed. Constantinides will introduce a bill on Wednesday, mandating the City do so in wake of a mystifying arc flash late last month.
“New York has generated power at the expense of Astoria residents for long enough,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, District 22. “It is nonsense that, in 2019, we still have power plants in residential neighborhoods. The Astoria Borealis left many citizens concerned this was either a terror attack or an explosion that might have toxic repercussions on our air. At a time when we’re trying to shed our reliance on fossil fuels, it is crucial we target the low-hanging fruit like our secondary plants in favor of renewable alternatives.”
The need for this bill was recently underscored by the recent incident at Consolidated Edison’s Astoria substation, during which a transmission issue created a bright blue light that flooded the night sky. Many residents in the surrounding blocks were left unsure if the air was safe following the incident, although officials later clarified there were no environmental risks.
Power plants present an unnecessary threat to residential communities such as Astoria, which was found in 2015 to have a higher volume of pollutants than the boroughwide and citywide averages. Constantinides’ new legislation requires the City of New York assess the feasibility of replacing these 21 gas-fired plants with batteries that store energy from wind, solar, and other renewable sources. The report also requires a 2030 energy storage goal and implementation plan.
Constantinides outlined the plan outside the Con Edison substation, at 31st Street and 20th Avenue, not far from where the Dec. 27 incident occurred. He was joined by State Sen. Jessica Ramos; Marie Torniali, Chair of Community Board 1, Queens; Claudia Coger, President of the Astoria Houses Residents Association; as well as representatives for New York Communities for Change, Food & Water Watch, the Peoples Climate Movement New York, Sunrise Movement, the Sane Energy Project and 350.org. For photos of the announcement, click here.
“Dirty energy production so close to where we live, work, and play is harmful to our health. Our borough is one of the most polluted in New York City, and this is not an environment we should have to raise our children in. Council Member Costa Constantinides’ bill to investigate closing gas-powered plants is an important first step in questioning our dependence on dirty energy and toward creating a cleaner, safer, more sustainable New York,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, District 13.
“Many residents have lived in perpetual fear and concern for the lack of regulatory safety at these power plants,” said Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor, Co-Founder and CEO of Urban Upbound. “And as you know, residents in Long Island City and Astoria have been subjected to these plants and the contaminants that are released into the air every day for as long as I’ve been living. So I’m glad that our councilman has taken on this inquiry and will have a hearing to ensure residents safety.”
“If there is a possibility that the power plants can be replaced with batteries that store energy, a feasibility study is imperative,” said Marie Torniali, Chair of Community Board 1, Queens. “The transformer blast in late December accentuated the problems and potential dangers in our neighborhood. Astorians have beared the burden of these plants for too long. We thank Council Member Constantinides for bringing this issue to the forefront.”
“New York got a glowing blue wake up call. It’s time to plan the shutdown of fossil fuel plants, which are dangerous and fuel the climate crisis. We’ll work to pass Council Member Constantinides’ new legislation,” said Patrick Houston with New York Communities for Change.
“Technology is in constant change, so it behooves the City of New York to be make sure any such changes that improve the quality of life of its citizens be immediately identified, researched, and implemented if possible,” said Richard Khuzami, President of the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association. “This bill reinforces what should be standard procedure.”
The legislation represents a broader push to make New York City’s electric grid greener, and is in the spirit of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent pledge to make the state grid carbon neutral by 2040. In December 2017, the City Council overwhelmingly passed a bill requiring plants stop using the dirtiest fuel oils as soon as 2022, which will significantly improve air quality in surrounding communities.
Council Member Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the Chair of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and sits on the For-Hire Vehicles, Land Use, Parks, and Transportation Committees and the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee. For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.