The New York Times

April 3, 2004

State Panel Rejects Brooklyn Power Plant


State examiners have recommended rejecting a private developer's efforts to build an electric power plant in Williamsburg on the Brooklyn waterfront.

Their recommendation is a significant strike against a plan that has drawn rancorous opposition from much of north Brooklyn and has drawn Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg into the fray.

The 135-page recommendation, issued late Thursday by two administrative law judges, is not binding on the state panel charged with approving power plant sites, but local elected officials and other opponents of the proposed plant described the recommendation in interviews yesterday as an indication that the proposal would almost certainly fail.

The development group hoping to build the plant, TransGas Energy L.L.C., vowed to demonstrate that the recommendation should be ignored when the state Siting Board issues its ruling, expected by early June.

The recommendation, written by Robert R. Garlin and Kevin J. Casutto, concludes that the plant would result in "significant adverse visual impacts that cannot be mitigated."

It further concludes that building the plant would poorly serve the applicable coastal management plan, in this case, the city's intention to rezone and redevelop the waterfront.

In that regard, the recommendation was a partial victory for Mayor Bloomberg, who has publicly opposed putting the plant at the Williamsburg site because it conflicts with his plans for the waterfront. Instead, he has suggested that the plant be constructed on a different site in Greenpoint near Newtown Creek, a location with a long industrial history that includes the spillage of millions and millions of gallons of oil, much of it still under the ground and in the creek."We are encouraged by the administrative law judges' recommendation and gratified that they understand the importance of the city's rezoning proposal for the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront," said Jennifer Falk, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

The examiners wrote in their report that the Greenpoint site was not a viable alternative, and that facet of their recommendation leaves Mr. Bloomberg with a continuing quandary. City officials have predicted that New York will need to add 3,000 megawatts of electricity by 2008.

TransGas, which has contracted to buy the Williamsburg site from Bayside Fuel Oil, has proposed a $1 billion, 1,100-megawatt plant, which would be the largest in the city and would convert natural gas to electricity, enough to light about 1 million homes. Len Shapiro, project manager for TransGas, said that the recommendation "ignores reality and is largely subjective."

"At a time of looming rate hikes for both steam and electricity, it mistakenly declares that all is well with the energy picture in New York City," Mr. Shapiro said. "At a time when a regional electric blackout can cripple the entire steam system on which New York's hospitals, businesses and residences rely for heating and air-conditioning, it cavalierly dismisses key reliability benefits from TGE. At a time when the peril of this nation's reliance on Mideast oil imports is a glaring weakness, the recommendation incredibly finds no public benefit to the natural-gas-fired cogeneration proposed by TGE."

Community groups and elected officials from north Brooklyn welcomed the decision.

"We've long been the dumping ground for the city," said Joseph Vance, co-chairman of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning, a coalition of 42 community groups. "If this thing is turned down, it sends a message."

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol of Greenpoint called the recommendation a major victory for opponents.

"The examining board's decision reflects our dedication to revitalization of the waterfront, preservation of one of the most beautiful views in New York, as well as adherence to already existing laws pertaining to state coastal management," he said.

Councilman David Yassky, whose district includes parts of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, said the recommendation represented near-certain victory for opponents of the plant.

"This is strike three for the power plant proposal," Mr. Yassky said. "All that's left is for the Siting Board to call them out."

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