2012-12-26 / Political Page

Say Goodbye To An Old Polluter

Once a symbol of pollution-spewing, and asthma-triggering in Astoria and Western Queens, the original Charles Poletti Power Plant will soon be torn down, according to Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

The Astoria lawmaker, who initiated the successful lawsuit to end the plant’s power generating days in 2002, reported to the Gazette that he had received confirmation from the New York Power Authority that the infamous plant, idle since 2010, will finally be torn down next year.

Since it was shuttered, Vallone and other local lawmakers and environmental advocates, such as CHOKE (Coalition Helping to Organize for a Kleaner Environment), had unceasingly fought for the old plant to be demolished in order to ensure it would not ever be reopened.

However, NYPA had never confirmed its plans for demolition before last week, Vallone said. He also reported that it was believed a piece of the venerable plant broke off during Hurricane Sandy, perhaps speeding its demise. The possible storm damage might have also damaged the neighboring US Power Generating Company plant, causing it to go offline for two days.

NYPA had never confirmed its plans for the Poletti demolition before last week. It was believed a piece of the venerable plant broke off during Hurricane Sandy, perhaps speeding its demise. The possible storm damage might have also damaged the neighboring US Power Generating Company plant, causing it to go offline for two days. NYPA had never confirmed its plans for the Poletti demolition before last week. It was believed a piece of the venerable plant broke off during Hurricane Sandy, perhaps speeding its demise. The possible storm damage might have also damaged the neighboring US Power Generating Company plant, causing it to go offline for two days. Vallone stated, “The people of Western Queens can finally breathe a fresh sigh of relief knowing the old Poletti plant will be torn down and never create a dark cloud over their heads again.”

Also greeting the holiday season’s good news were state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Aravella Simotos (both D–Astoria).

Gianaris stated, “Western Queens residents have reason to rejoice the new year with the news that New York’s biggest polluter, the Charles Poletti Power Plant, will finally be torn down in 2013. Many of us remember all too well the toxic, dirty air emitted by the plant that plagued our neighborhood for decades, and it was thanks to our hard work that the plant finally closed.

“As we prepare to ring in the new year, I look forward to celebrating the much-awaited deconstruction of this power plant as well as continuing our work to make Western Queens a green neighborhood whose residents are healthy and air is clean.”

Simotos stated: “In 2010, the Western Queens community rejoiced after the NYPA ceased operations at the Poletti power plant, which polluted our neighborhood for decades. I applaud NYPA for finally taking the last step in erasing New York’s worst polluter from our neighborhood’s footprint.”

Vallone noted that CHOKE and the Natural Resources Defense Council, another prestigious and hard-fighting environmental organization, were vital and strong supporters of his 2002 suit. The lawmaker said the Poletti plant was “the city’s most polluting plant, accounting for more emissions than all sources in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and The Bronx combined, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report.”

And he added, “Western Queens continues to provide more than 80 percent of the power for the city.”

The old Poletti plant was replaced in 2005 with a state-of-the-art facility, which is one of the cleanest, most efficient in New York City, according to Vallone.

NYPD SECURITY NEEDED IN NON PROFIT SCHOOLS, SAYS VALLONE: Under a bill Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. introduced two years ago, security by the NYPD would be provided in nonprofit schools in New York City equal to that in the city’s public schools.

“All our kids are created equal, so they all deserve to be provided equal protection in school,” Vallone said. “The city cannot ignore the safety of thousands of kids based solely on the type of school they attend.”

The Astoria lawmaker and chair of the Public Safety Committee said he has been pushing the bill during the past several months, and given the recent tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, he pointed out, he’s once again calling on his colleagues to provide equal protection for all students in New York City.

He said under his bill security services provided by the NYPD would include an assessment of the schools’ security needs, placement of school safety officers and the use of video cameras or metal detectors, among other measures.

Presently, Vallone pointed out that decreases in enrollment and increased costs have forced many nonprofit schools to cut their budgets, including school security, “making help from the city all the more vital”. He also noted that New York City currently provides nurses for nonpublic schools because health is deemed important, but he said he believes “school security is even more important”.

LHOTA LOOKING CLOSELY AT POSSIBLE MAYORAL RUN: On Wednesday, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota did a very unpolitical thing—he announced transit fare increases but he also showed some moxie, also announcing that he will strongly consider running for mayor next year. Lhota, who was a deputy mayor under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, had previously said if he decides to run, he would seek the GOP nomination. About a week ago, Giuliani said he had urged Lhota to run for mayor and hinted he would support him if he did.

Recently, following Hurricane Sandy, Lhota was faced with serious problems because the storm had flooded many subway routes, making it impossible for trains to run during the storm and bringing the subways to a halt in the period after the storm.

But Lhota pulled off a rare feat—he cracked the whip and had the subways running two days after the storm.

Lhota said on Wednesday he would announce a decision on a mayoral election in several weeks. His main consideration is whether he can raise the funds necessary to enable him to conduct a race that would give him a realistic chance of winning. We think he’ll find the money sources he will need because prospective campaign contributors will be swayed by an important fact—the city’s last two mayors—Giuliani and Bloomberg will have occupied the mayoral office for the past 20 years when Bloomberg’s third term ends at the end of 2013.

Also considering seeking the Republican nod for mayor in next year’s contest is millionaire supermarket owner John Catsimatides, but he has said he’s not too keen on getting into a primary with Lhota.

Meanwhile, the four prospective Democratic contenders—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu and former City Comptroller William Thompson, are likely hoping Lhota comes across many tightfisted money men as he tries to find the funds he will need to run. If Lhota fails to get the funds, all it will take for a Democrat to become mayor is to win the Democratic primary because she or he will have a walkover in the general election.

STAVISKY, BRAUNSTEIN BRING GLAD TIDINGS: Northeast Queens lawmakers, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein delivered some holiday season good news last week: assurances from Governor Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that they are committed to extending co-op tax abatements retroactively when the 2013 session starts next month in Albany. And it will contain favorable changes for the co-op owners that were proposed by Braunstein (D–Bayside), they said.

Stavisky (D–Whitestone) and Braunstein issued a statement in which they quoted Cuomo stating: “The Assembly, senate and Governor Cuomo reached an agreement at the end of the session last June on tax relief legislation they have all stated will be taken up when legislators return to Albany. When the legislation is signed into law, the tax abatement will be retroactive and condo and co-op owners will be held harmless.”

Silver was also quoted: “At the end of the session, we reached an agreement on a comprehensive bill that will cut taxes for the vast majority of condo and co-op owners who pay a disproportionate share of the city’s property tax burden. The city has indicated that it will issue tax bills based on these new tax rates, and we will pass the bill when we return to Albany.”

Stavisky stated: “I appreciate the governor’s and speaker’s support for the co-op shareholders and condo unit owners. People are terrified that their maintenance fees will increase and their strong statement should allay these fears. While nothing is ever absolute in Albany, the governor and speaker have given their commitment to resolving this problem and I thank them.”

Braunstein said in his statement, “Many co-op owners in Northeast Queens have contacted my office to express their concern regarding the extension of the co-op tax abatement. They are nervous that they will see a substantial increase in their maintenance costs if the abatement is allowed to expire. Therefore, it is reassuring to receive a commitment from the governor and the speaker to pass an extension retroactively. I want to thank Governor Cuomo and Speaker Silver for their leadership on this issue.”

Last June, the lawmakers explained the background of this story. At the time, the senate and Assembly ended the legislative session without extending the vital New York City co-op tax abatement for another four years. At the time, legislative leaders, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cuomo reached a deal to pass a new, improved coop tax abatement, which had been proposed by Braunstein and which would increase benefits to middle class co-op owners.

Under the agreement, the legislature had expected to return to Albany after last November’s elections to pass the co-op bill. As for the mayor, his office agreed to continue to issue tax bills at a lower rate with the expectation that any new tax abatement would be implemented retroactively, the lawmakers explained.

Braunstein and Stavisky further noted that due to the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, the governor had decided that a special legislative session would not be held as planned so that lawmakers and state officials could focus their efforts on the recovery. Understandably, they said, many co-op owners became concerned about the fate of the tax abatement legislation.

‘BUSIEST’ ROAD IN ROCKAWAY ‘QUESTIONABLE’, NEEDS REBUILDING: Beach Channel Drive between Beach 108th and Beach 149th Streets, a stretch along one of the busiest east-west corridors in the Rockaways, is in perilous shape because the seawall or bulkhead was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy and homes along the route may also be threatened, according to Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder.

“I’ve been fighting for the investigation and restoration of the deteriorating Bay Wall surrounding the Rockaways for over a year,” said Goldfeder. “Superstorm Sandy only further aggravated a problem our community has fought to address in the past. Right now, the safety of Beach Channel Drive is questionable, and this puts our families at a level of risk that I refuse to accept.”

Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) said the ‘deterioration and collapse of the bulkhead” has virtually left the road without much underground support and eliminates what little flood protection the Rockaways had in the past.

“Further damage to the Bay Wall, either through decay or additional storm damage could lead to the formation of sinkholes, putting the homes along Beach Channel Drive at even greater risk,” the lawmaker warned.

Goldfeder is so concerned, that he has requested that the city Department of Transportation Commissioner Maura McCarthy conduct an immediate investigation into the collapsed Bay Wall.

“We have been fighting for years and it’s about time someone take notice before it’s too late,” warned Jonathan Gaska, district manager of CB 14. “We can’t take any more chances when it comes to protecting our families and one of the most important roads in the Rockaway community.”

Goldfeder added, “Much of the storm damage along Beach Channel Drive can be connected back to the decaying Bay Wall. The DOT should take immediate action to investigate and repair the current damage, not only to keep the road safe, but also to prevent any future storm damage from destroying our community. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the Bay Wall is permanently fixed and Beach Channel Drive is a safe, viable roadway for Rockaway families.”

HALLORAN REACHES MILESTONE IN CONSTITUENT SERVICES: Councilmember Dan Halloran’s district office reports it entered its 8,000th constituent services case last week, marking a milestone in the Whitestone office’s service to local residents since Halloran took office three years ago.

Halloran (R–C–Whitestone) says his office has ranked first in constituent services since he took office, according to a database initiative called CouncilStat.

WEPRIN FIGHTS BUS DELAYS: Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) reports the MTA is adding additional trips to the Q1 bus route and will make adjustments to the Q 43 bus line schedule. Both lines run along Hillside Avenue in Northwest Queens.The adjustments, according to Weprin, are to reduce overcrowding and improve service reliability for students, as the lawmaker had requested.

Weprin said early in this year’s school term he was contacted by Principal Sam Sochet, of Martin Van Buren H.S., who informed him that students were experiencing difficulty in boarding MTA buses to travel to school in the morning because of overcrowding, causing some to often be late. Weprin reported the situation to New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast who remedied the situation.

Weprin,whosaidtheQ1andQ43 changes will take effect in January, also said: “Traveling to school should not be such a challenge, and the MTA has responded appropriately to improve commuting for local students.”

MACCHIAROLA DIES: The death of former Chancellor of the Board of Education Frank Macchiarola from 1978 to 1983 was reported by the present Chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, who said Macchiarola was “instrumental in redefining the role of the principal as the key leader of a school community”.

Walcott continued: “He also was a strong chancellor and known for his quick wit and dedication to the city’s public school children. His qualities helped to define my role in public service and later as a member of the Board of Education. After being chancellor, (Macchiarola) served with distinction as president and later chancellor of St. Francis College in Brooklyn. He will be sorely missed.”

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