Western Queens community leaders support plan to turn Big Allis into renewable energy hub

The Ravenswood Generating Station on the Long Island City waterfront is slated to become a renewable energy hub under a plan proposed by its operator, Rise Light & Power.
QNS file photo

Western Queens community leaders are supporting a plan to transform the massive Ravenswood Generating Station in Long Island City into a renewable energy hub.

Rise Light & Power, a Queens-based manager and developer of energy assets, announced its plan for a new 1,200-megawatt buried renewables-transmission line that will carry homegrown wind and solar energy from upstate, delivering clean energy to the city while reducing downstate’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The first-of its-kind Catskills Renewable program will advance the state’s climate goals and help drive the post-pandemic economic recovery, generating $2 billion in economic development and more than 5,000 local clean-energy jobs, according to the proposal.

“After the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long Island City needs leaders with a bold vision for local economic development and job creation,” Long Island City Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “Rise Light & Power’s Catskills Renewable Connector offers that vision. This project would help turn our neighborhood into New York’s center for renewable energy, bringing in much-needed investment and job opportunities and putting us on the path to long-term growth and vitality. This visionary proposal can be a major part of LIC’s renewable and economic progress.”

If approved by the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority, Rise Light & Power will contract with leading renewable energy developers in upstate New York to build thousands of megawatts of new wind and solar energy, and it will build the Catskills Renewable Connector to deliver that clean energy to customers in New York City.

“Our hometown of Queens needs the Catskills Renewable Connector if we’re going to come back better and stranger from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Grech said. “Rise Light & Power is offering a bold opportunity for economic development, jobs, innovation and inclusive growth around the borough, as well as clean and healthier communities.”

That is welcome news to those that have led the fight for environmental justice in the area of western Queens known as “Asthma Alley” where residents suffer a high rate of respiratory ailments due to power plants in Long Island City and Astoria that produce over 50 percent of the entire city’s electricity.

“I hope NYSERDA joins our residents in supporting Rise Light & Power’s Catskills Renewable Connector. After a year full of such loss and hardship, the Queensbridge community needs an opportunity for jobs and revitalization,” Queensbridge Tenants Association President April Simpson said. “The pandemic has also shown the need for stronger commitments to environmental justice. With a long track record of community engagement and support, Rise Light & Power is the only partner who can help us deliver these dreams. Our community believes the Ravenswood Generating Station can and must be adopted.”

Locals have referred to the plant as “Big Allis” in tribute to its builder, the Allis-Chalmers Corporation and the fact that when it opened in 1965 it was the first million kilowatt power plant in the world. It sits across Vernon Boulevard from the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in North America.

“Low-income residents have been some of the hardest-hit victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will take efforts from all of us to help them recover,” Urban Upbound Co-Founder and CEO Bishop Mitchell Taylor said. “In addition to higher rates of illness, the effects have included job loss, educational setbacks and deepened poverty. As a community organization that focuses on addressing social and economic barriers in our communities, we have dealt with these problems firsthand. Through jobs, community engagement and improved air quality, Rise Light & Power’s Catskills Renewable Connector would help improve the lives of our residents. We urge NYSERDA to accept this proposal.”