Rockaway power facility draws ire from boro pols

By Alex Davidson

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and other elected officials were quick to criticize a new power plant in Rockaway that they said will supply most of its energy to Nassau County but leave its negative environmental impact on the borough.

Marshall slammed construction of the Jamaica Bay Peaking facility at Bay 24th Street, saying most of the energy will go to Suffolk and Nassau Counties rather than Queens. She said in an statement that she was puzzled as to why the borough is bearing the environmental burdens of the generators while not receiving a significant amount of the power produced at the plants.

“While we recognize the need for additional power, this latest plant means that there will now be three generating plants on the Bayswater site with much of the power being generated for Nassau County,” Marshall said. “I would like to know exactly how much of the power-generating activity at this site will be used to serve the people of Rockaway.”

The plant is now under construction.

The 54-megawatt peaking facility will be the third at the site along with a 44-megawatt generator built in 2001 and an aging 100-megawatt plant owned by Keyspan, Marshall said. The Long Island Power Authority and Florida Power Light signed an agreement with the city to construct the plant that will open within the year, she said.

State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway) was also critical of the plan and said the facility creates a bad precedent of building more power plants in Queens that supply energy to other parts of the state. She said she was also concerned about the impact generators have on surrounding communities.

“LIPA has built piecemeal power facilities in our community without complete and thorough environmental reviews or sufficiently demonstrating Rockaway's need for this additional facility,” Pheffer said. “I implore LIPA to construct a comprehensive plan that adequately addresses the power needs of Rockaway.”

Michael Lowndes, a spokesman for LIPA, said the peaking facilities are environmentally sensitive because they use energy-efficient equipment and clean sources of fuel. He said 10 peaking facilities were built last year on Long Island to satisfy the area's immediate need for power.

Jamaica Bay Peaking facility will be a supplemental plant and only be activated when energy demand is high, Lowndes said. The energy demand from Long Island is much larger than that from Queens, he said.

“We don't have years – we needed electricity yesterday,” Lowndes said of the peaking facilities, which are quicker to construct than larger, 24-hour facilities. He said the Rockaways get their power from Long Island rather than Queens plants and are facing a crunch in energy supplies this summer when demand is at its height.

Marshall said in a statement that the agreement among LIPA, FPL and the city's Economic Development Corp. calls for $450,000 in environmental assistance funds that could help the Rockaway community improve parks and recreation sites. Projects could include flood controls in the area of Norton Drive and the use of $100,000 for wetlands restoration at Gateway National Recreation Area, she said.

FPL said it will retain an environmental consultant using $50,000 from the pool of assistance funds, which will be distributed during a three-year period.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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