Western Queens environmental activists host virtual game show to protest power plant plan

Western Queens assemblyman devises an innovative way to raise awareness and protest NRG’s proposed fracked gas plant in Astoria. (Courtesy No NRG)

Question: What is Asthma Alley?

Answer: It is a swath of western Queens where residents suffer a high rate of respiratory ailments due to power plants in Long Island City and Astoria that produce more than 50 percent of the entire city’s electricity.

It is also where more than 150 people played a virtual trivia game Tuesday hosted by Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani called “Climate (in) Jeopardy!” to raise awareness and counter NRG’s recent “public presentation” on its proposal to upgrade their fracked gas power plant in Astoria, which elected officials, climate advocacy groups and community members have organized against, emphasizing the threat to the community’s air and overall health.

“The fight for our future is taking place right here in Astoria,” Mamdani said. “Our neighbors deserve clean air, plentiful jobs and a promise for a greener future — yet the NRG’s proposed fracked gas power plant provides none of these. In fact, it locks us into decades of dirty energy. We must step up and stop this plant, for our futures.”

One of the questions posed by Mamdani, who hosted the event, countered an NRG talking point on job creation, exposing that the plant would create only 10 to 20 permanent jobs. Another question highlighted the many renewable alternatives NRG has not considered.

“Environmental justice is racial justice. Rikers Island and the Renewable Rikers proposal that could replace every dirty peaker plant in our city is a perfect example of that intersection,” said Tiffany Cabán, a guest contestant and candidate for City Council. “It’s not a coincidence that the same communities with the worst health outcomes due to pollution are also the same communities that are over-policed and over-criminalized. In fighting for a Green New Deal for Queens we must center and elevate the voices and experiences of those who are most directly impacted by the climate crisis and environmental racism.”

Organizers with The No Astoria NRG Fracked Gas Power Plant Coalition showed participants how to submit a public comment to the Department of Environmental Conservation and Governor Andrew Cuomo urging them to reject NRG’s proposal.

“Andrew Cuomo has positioned himself as a national leader when it comes to climate change, so it’s time for him to act like one,” Author and Astoria activist Jaya Saxena said. “We can’t invest a single dollar more in fossil fuels.”

No Astoria NRG Fracked Gas Plant Coalition member Elaine O’Brien added that “the public health science is clear: there is no clean fracked gas. Our communities have suffered from fossil fuel pollution for too long and we are demanding actually clean renewable energy now.”

As the event drew to a close, Mamdani noted all the new comments being submitted to the governor, telling the participants to “know you can make a difference.”