2001-09-05 / Editorials

Power Plants Plug On

The Queensbridge Tenant Council received an e-mail stating that Crain’s New York Business on August 27, 2001 reported: "Agency, Silvercup Pull Plug On Controversy." Removal of Queensborough Generators Would Allow the Studio to Expand".

The report goes on to explain that the New York Power Authority and Silvercup Studios are close to settlement that would lead to the eventual removal of two generators, built this spring near the Queensborough Bridge, by 2004.

Silvercup sued to block the plants because it claimed that it wants to build a studio on an adjacent lot. Rarely mentioned are Silvercup's intentions also to build a luxury apartment building on the same plot of land.

The Queensbridge Tenant Council was initially opposed to the power plants as Queensbridge Houses, the largest housing project in the United States and Canada is only 288 steps from these new power plants and was not too keen on additions to the pollution already coming from the Ravenswood/Big Allis power plant as well as pollution from the Queensborough Bridge.

The settlement guarantees that win-or-lose, Silvercup wins either way.

According to the settlement, if the power plants are not removed, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) is forced to buy the adjacent Silvercup land at market value. If the power plants are removed, then Silvercup gets to buy the NYPA land at market value. Silvercup therefore would get to buy land that NYPA took from the previous owner through imminent domain; land that Silvercup might not otherwise have been able to add to its proposed luxury development parcel.

KeySpan Corporation has offered to buy NYPA's 44-megawatt generators and put them at its nearby Ravenswood plant, which is even closer to Queensbridge Houses then the existing Silvercup plot. Far enough to please real-estate interests.

The Queensbridge Tenant Council is extremely skeptical of these goings-on. Maybe Silvercup had this planned all along. There are rumors that a lot of people, including some politicians and politicians' friends, have heavily invested in abandoned factories and warehouses in the Silvercup power plant area and are waiting to make a killing when Silvercup starts to escalate real estate values. Silvercup had argued that the generators would cause too much noise or vibration for their planned studio. Their current studio in a converted bakery has both a subway and a bridge ramp running less that 50 feet from its window.

You can look in the windows as you go by on the train or in a car! How could the generators be a problem? Generators would only limit the profit they can make on the land.

If the power plants are moved to the Ravenswood site, this would enable Silvercup to build luxury apartments 288 feet from Queensbridge Houses.

More investors would then cash in on their land, which would cause apartment values to go up. This could be disastrous to Queensbridge Houses tenants, whose rent is now based on either 30 percent of their income or a ceiling rent.

At a tumultuous New York City Housing Authority Hearing Tuesday, Aug. 21, at which a hearing henchman wrestled the microphone from Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, it was mentioned that flat rents based on area market value might be used instead of the current ceiling rents. That means that if all the power plants stay where they are, Queensbridge Houses tenants might be better off. Another e-mail to the Queensbridge Tenant Council opined "the generators are an insurance policy against yuppies."

The Queensbridge Tenant Council will go further: "We need power plants, a toxic chemical reclaimer and an abattoir and we will happily scout for suitable sites for such businesses."

Raymond Normandeau is press secretary of the Queensbridge Tenants Council.

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