Too Many Power Plants In West Queens: 'Enough', Says Gianaris
Asserting, "enough is enough for Western Queens residents," Assemblymember Michael Gianaris applauded Mayor Michael Bloomberg as Bloomberg issued a report finding that New York City will be able to meet its energy needs until 2014 without building more power plants in the city.
Gianaris (D-Astoria), a tough watchdog over the city's power issue, especially the fact that the city's power plants are overly concentrated in his district covering Astoria and Long Island City, noted that prior to the new findings announced by the mayor, more power plants would have to be built in the city, including Astoria and Long Island City.
Heaving a sign of relief, Gianaris said he was pleased with Bloomberg's announcement because it recognizes that "We can deal with energy supply without further increasing asthma and emphysema rates in our neighborhood."
Explaining the background of the mayor's new findings, Gianaris said a task force had been created in 2003 to examine the city's energy supply, and it originally concluded that New York City would need 25 percent more electricity by 2008. Among the original recommendations, Gianaris pointed out, was building more power plants in areas of the city already burdened with many power facilities, like Western Queens.
Gianaris, a leader in efforts to reduce the oversaturation of power plants in Astoria and Long Island City, declared: "While I recognize the need for more power in New York, simply building more power plants was never the answer. Our many victories in this struggle proves that there are smarter and fairer ways to deal with our energy needs."
One such way is the Clean Energy Law authored by Gianaris several years ago. It encourages existing power plants throughout New York to modernize their facilities using new technologies that drastically reduce toxic emissions while at the same time reducing the cost of power generation, thus saving power plant operators money. It's a win-win situation. A number of local power plants, including the U.S. Power Generating Company and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) Poletti plant in Astoria have followed the recommendations laid out in Gianaris' Clean
Since he was elected to the Assembly, Gianaris has worked diligently to reduce air pollution in Western Queens. In addition to the Clean Energy Law, he was instrumental in negotiating the agreement with NYPA to reduce and eventually eliminate emissions from its Poletti power plant-which was the single largest source of pollution in all New York City.
SAVING SENIORS MONEY: City Councilmember John Liu (D-Flushing), joined by senior citizens and senior advocates, unveiled a plan last week which, he said, could save senior center operators millions of dollars by reducing the money they spend to insure the vans that transport seniors to doctors' visits, on local shopping trips and to other necessary appointments.
Liu, chairman of the Transportation Committee, explained that senior centers pay a wide range of insurance premiums, from $2,000 to nearly $20,000 per vehicle per year, for "near-identical" coverage.
Liu said his plan would make $4 million available to senior centers that would purchase group insurance from companies with the lowest rates, saving senior centers approximately $2 million.
In 2006, Liu pointed out, the city council approved $4 million to help subsidize the operating costs of about 215 vans operated by senior citizen centers that provide some 700,000 rides for seniors each year, according to a study conducted by Bobbie Sackman of the Council of Senior Citizens and Services of New York City.
Under Liu's proposal, the same amount of aid, $4 million, could be used in 2007 to help senior centers with operating costs and help them find a lower-cost vehicle insurance provider.
The urgent need to reduce operating costs for seniors' vans was emphasized by Sackman, who said, "It has become increasingly apparent that rising insurance costs are creating an impending crisis for senior transportation."
Liu agreed, "Skyrocketing insurance costs are a major obstacle to helping our seniors remain independent and connected to their families and communities. Our common-sense plan helps senior centers to lower insurance costs by helping them to take advantage of discounts, credits and low-cost providers, all of which will help them to expand transportation options for New York's senior citizens."
VALLONE TAKES STAND AGAINST HATRED: Following incidents of crime in his Astoria district recently, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. declared: "These crimes were crimes against all Astorians. We must stand strong against all forms of hatred."
The council Public Safety Committee chairman continued: "Every person has the right to walk down the street without fear of attack. When these violent, hateful thugs are caught, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Vallone is working with the Police Department, Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and various business and civic organizations to create a Safe Haven program where people fearful of attack can seek refuge and call police for protection and assistance.
Following the two Astoria attacks, the 114th Police Precinct contacted Vallone. He was assured both offenses were labeled as hate crimes. The lawmaker then set up a meeting with Officer George Farrugia, president of the Gay Officers Action League, and Dirk McCall, president of the Stonewall Jackson Democratic Club.
At the meeting, police officials stated they would increase patrols in the area of both crimes and that all resources would be made available to catch those who committed the crimes.
MORE RED LIGHT CAMERAS COMING: The number of socalled "red light" cameras, which take pictures of cars whose drivers violate red traffic light signals earning the driver a traffic ticket, would be doubled in New York City from 50 to 100 under a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette (D-Jackson Heights) and Senator Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose). It passed both houses in Albany and is expected to be signed into law by Governor George Pataki.
Both lawmakers cited the traffic safety benefits that the red light cameras bring, Padavan noting, "They save lives," and Lafayette saying, "When you put a red light camera in an intersection the number of collisions drops by 70 percent."
The Bloomberg administration expects another benefit-an estimated $13 million a year in new revenue from the fines that flow into the city's treasury.
The mayor supported the bill which had previously failed in the Assembly, and won Speaker Sheldon Silver's support to get it passed.
NOLAN: FLAG WILL FLY AT STATE PARKS: Under a bill introduced by Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), which has passed both the Assembly and state senate, the American flag is mandated to be flown over all state parks in New York state.
In announcing passage of the bill, Nolan singled out Gantry Plaza State Park, which is on the Queens bank of the East River immediately opposite the United Nations in Manhattan.
Nolan, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, explained that she introduced the legislation in 2005 after receiving a letter from a patriotic neighborhood firefighter, Paul Mallory, noting the need for an American flag in the Gantry Plaza Park in Hunters Point.
"Mallory said prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center Towers could be viewed from the pier in the park." Nolan noted, "I urge the governor to sign this important law. Over the years, the state Parks Department has resisted requests to voluntarily install a flagpole there, citing design issues and costs."
Now, under Nolan's bill, the American flag will now be required at all state parks, including Gantry Plaza State Park.
MALONEY WANTS HEARINGS ON BANK RECORD SNOOPING: Declaring, "A new day, a new revelation of a possible invasion of privacy by the Bush administration without proper safeguards," Congressmember Carolyn Maloney called last week for public hearings on the administration's bank record surveillance program unveiled last week.
Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan) stated she supported the government's legal efforts to disrupt and destroy terror financing networks. "But", she said, "I am deeply concerned that this administration is perhaps acting without regard for basic legal protections and expectations in forcing the international banking community to provide confidential data."
Maloney, who is a member of the House Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology Subcommittes, which would conduct the hearings, said, "It seems that the administration may have done an end run around U.S. law, getting their information from overseas sources instead.
"Congress should act swiftly to examine whether U.S. or international law was violated by these unprecedented actions. As the ranking member of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over this issue, I am calling for hearings as soon as possible."
WHERE'S THE SUBWAY CELL SERVICE?: Congrssmember Anthony Weiner (D-Queens /Brooklyn) and state Senator John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights), citing Weiner's request for cell phone service in the city's subway system three years ago and bids requested for the service by the MTA last year, last week urged the transportation agency to act immediately to get the system installed and provide the city's straphangers with a vital anti-terror lifeline.