The New York Times

October 4, 2003

Mayor Wants to Move Site of Power Plant


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday that a large power plant that a private developer wants to build on a scenic stretch of waterfront in Williamsburg, Brooklyn a plan that has drawn intense opposition from city officials and residents should instead be built in an industrial region of Greenpoint.

Mr. Bloomberg, speaking on his weekly radio show on WABC, told listeners that an abandoned petroleum site along the Newtown Creek "would be a much better place" for the 1,100-megawatt plant, which would be one of the largest in the city.

But while many Brooklyn residents said they supported moving the power plant from the waterfront, they were concerned about relocating it to another part of a community that already has a large sewage treatment plant.

Vincent V. Abate, chairman of Brooklyn Community Board 1, which covers both Williamsburg and Greenpoint, said, "Anything that is unwanted in one place is certainly not wanted in another place."

Councilman David Yassky said he had recently formed a coalition to clean the Newtown Creek, which is marred by oil slicks and rusty cars underwater. "This raises issues all its own," he said. "I don't know how it would impact the Newtown Creek and what the environmental consequences would be at this site."

In recent months, the Bloomberg administration has moved forward with an ambitious plan to transform a crumbling, 1.6-mile stretch of the waterfront with new housing and recreational areas. The proposed plant would sit in the middle of that redevelopment, and the mayor had pledged to come up with another site for it. On his radio show yesterday, the mayor said the 9.8-acre site in Greenpoint was better suited for a power plant because it could provide access to gas pipelines and the power grid without disrupting residential neighborhoods.

"It's already industrial," he said, "it doesn't hurt anybody, and given you have to build it someplace, this is a perfect compromise, or perfect solution, to a difficult problem that we always face of where do you put needed facilities that nobody wants in their backyard?"

A spokesman for the developer of the plant, TransGas Energy Systems, said that its engineering and environmental experts were reviewing the Greenpoint site, and would respond to the mayor's suggestion by Oct. 27. State officials are evaluating the $1 billion project, and are expected to make a decision on it by June 2004.

City officials have projected that they will need an additional 3,000 megawatts of electricity by 2008 to meet growing energy demands. Proposed projects, or those already under construction, would cover about 2,500 megawatts of that, including a 1,000-megawatt plant in Astoria, Queens, and a transmission line across the Hudson River that would deliver 600 megawatts.

The proposed plant would generate enough electricity to light about one million homes, and would burn relatively clean natural gas and recycle its waste heat to make steam that could be used to heat buildings.

Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff said city officials had looked at more than a dozen possible sites in Brooklyn, and seriously reviewed three others before settling on the one in Greenpoint, which is owned by the Exxon Mobil Corporation.

He said the city had retained a firm with experience in developing power plants, to ensure that the site would meet engineering, design, construction and environmental requirements for a power plant. He added that the city was not planning at this time to subsidize the project with taxpayer dollars.

The property was once used as a storage, blending and distribution site. But by the late 1970's, large amounts of petroleum had seeped into the ground, requiring state-ordered cleanup efforts. So far, about 1.5 million gallons of petroleum products have been recovered, state environmental officials said.

Barry Wood, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, said the property had not been on the market and declined to put a price on it. He said the company was willing to consider selling it, but several issues would have to be addressed, like how the cleanup of the site would continue.

Matthew Burns, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is overseeing the cleanup, said that while state law did not prevent Exxon Mobil from selling the property, the new owner would be legally responsible for making sure that the cleanup continued.

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