City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, Jackson Heights, Woodside, East Elmhurst) joined State Senator Jessica Ramos (D- Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Astoria, Woodside) today to talk about a bill he is introducing in the city council that will assess whether gas-fired power plants can be closed.
Constantinides announced the legislation with Ramos and community activists outside the Astoria Con Edison substation, 31st Street and 20th Avenue, the site of a Dec. 27 transformer explosion that lit the night sky blue. While the blast caused no damage to the air quality, it did leave many residents too shook up to leave their homes until they knew it was literally safe to breathe.
“New York has generated power at the expense of Astoria residents for long enough,” said Constantinides, chair of the Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection. “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.”
Residents from Ravenswood and Queensbridge houses as well as members from New York Communities for Change also supported the measure, coming out to the press conference out of concern for the consequences of living next to big power plants like the Ravenswood Generating Station, located at 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, .
Pollutants in the air from greenhouse gases are so palpable that residents have dubbed the upper west side of Queens “asthma alley,” due to the high asthma rates within these areas.
Residents of Long Island City and Astoria suffer the most for poor air quality according to a 2015 study, “Although NYC air quality is improving, air pollution, such as fine particles, can cause health problems, particularly among the very young, seniors and those with preexisting health conditions. In Long Island City and Astoria, levels of PM, the most harmful air pollutant, are 8.9 micrograms per cubic meter, compared with 8.4 in Queens and 8.6 citywide,” the study found.
“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,” said Ramos. “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.”
Claudia Coger, a long-time resident of Ravenswood, testified to the change that adding more power plants has had on community members. “As the years went by, my household included seven children and none of them had asthma, but now as the years went by with my grandchildren I have in my household now, one and two great-grand and all three are on tubes and pumps,” said Coger. “So that tells me something about the air that they breathe, that we breathe on the East River side.”
The bill itself does not come with a timeline as for when the plants will be shut down and replaced, but Constantinides believes the most important aspect of this bill is how it paves the road to get the work started, “It’s time for us to push that envelope. If you don’t dream it you don’t get there. So I’m not gonna say ‘oh it’s five years,’ its as soon as we can.”
The bill, which Constantinides will introduce tomorrow in the city council, intends to change the administrative code of NYC regarding replacing gas-fired power plants with clean renewable energy by doing the following;
- Speed up the time-frames for the replacement of existing power plants with renewable battery story
- Review the potential of battery storage for lithium-ion batteries, sodium sulfur batteries, liquid air batteries, flow-based batteries, lead-acid batteries, and zinc batteries.
Constantinides explained how he hopes that one day the city will utilize only renewable power from sources like wind and sunlight.