With an eye on enhanced resiliency and sustainability, Councilman Costa Constantinides, the chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, put forth his bold vision for the future of Rikers Island, and eventually the north end of Astoria.
During his “State of the District” address at P.S. 2 in East Elmhurst last week, Constantinides shared his plan for a greener Queens — and it had nothing to do with developers or an extra runway for LaGuardia Airport.
“With the prison on Rikers Island closing in the next five to 10 years, the city will soon have 400 acres of space open for redevelopment,” Constantinides said. “We will have a unique opportunity to solve several different environmental problems that have bedeviled us for decades.”
Namely, the section of western Queens known as “Asthma Alley” which is home to almost half of the city’s power plants. Constantinides said his office had begun a collaboration with the CUNY Law School Center for Urban Environmental Reform to “determine the best use of space” from an environmental perspective.
“Astoria resident and professor Rebecca Bratspies demonstrated that, based off projections from the Lippman Commission’s report on Rikers Island, renewables installed on the island could be used to replace most, if not all, of the plants that have been built in this city in the last two decades,” Constantinides said. “What’s more, this should also eave us plenty of space to build a new, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility that would allow us to potentially retire several older sewage treatment plants in north Queens and the Bronx.”
Constantinides said his plan would establish solar or wind fields tied to large-scale batteries large enough to store enough energy to potentially power more than 2 million homes.
“This is not some far-flung dream of a distant future,” he said. “This is within our grasp now, and we need to begin the transition away from these plants now. Too much is at stake to wait around any longer.”
Constantinides also called on the city’s Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive review of the 4.5-mile Astoria Boulevard, which runs from the RFK-Triborough Bridge to Citi Field. Despite efforts to keep large trucks merging onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the roadway has still seen significant backups and accidents in the past year.
The councilman also proposed a new station house with a parking garage to replace the 50-year-old home of the 114th Precinct, recognizing the current layout leads to blocked intersections, sidewalks and overpasses.
“This has created a traffic nightmare around Astoria Boulevard and 35th Street,” Constantinides said. “My office has fielded complaints about this for years, and trust me, we hear you.”