New York Daily News -
Powers that be
defend plant proposal

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003

It's being touted as a power plant with a few twists, such as a visitors center, plasma TV screens showcasing the works of local artists, and a grassy open space.

But even dressed up, a power plant is a power plant, say some Greenpoint-Williamsburg activists, and they still don't want it built.

Brooklyn-based TransGas Energy Systems wants to develop a 1,100-megawatt steam/electric plant on a 9-acre site at Kent Ave. and N. 12th Sts. now occupied by a Bayside Fuel Oil Co. depot.

Opinions for and against the proposal were expressed last week at a state Public Service Commission hearing. Supporters promised that rather than a bland industrial building, the plant would be an esthetically pleasing, high-tech facility.

Opponents of the plan voiced their doubts.

"You want to stimulate the community to stroll around the perimeters of the plant?" Victor Tafur, a lawyer representing the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront Task Force, asked the TransGas witness panel.

Yes, responded members of that panel, which included architect Jeffrey White and urban planner Stephan Solzhenitsyn.

White said the plant's design was intended to "draw people to the waterfront" and to "see what a power facility means to the modern world."

But witnesses for the task force said the proposed plant would be, by far, the largest facility on the east side of the East River waterfront.

It would obscure the Manhattan skyline for many Greenpoint-Williamsburg residents, and would spew an estimated 1,075 tons of toxic emissions per year, they testified.

Task force official Rolf Carle told the Daily News that the plant's 325-foot-high smokestack is nearly the same height as the Williamsburg Bridge, and that the proposed plant would stretch 1,000 feet along N. 12th St.

TransGas design coordinator Jonathan Arnold disputed that assertion, saying the facility would not be one large structure but rather several smaller buildings spaced out on the site so they would "relate to a human being."

Arnold added that titanium alloyed metal panels on the plant's facade would pick up the hue of the sky and help the structure blend into its surroundings, "mitigating its visual impact."

However, Deborah Gans, an architect testifying for the task force, summed up the prevailing opinion among opponents of the plant when she said: "An elephant painted pink is still an elephant."