Astoria leaders show support of new energy project that would reduce fossil fuel use by 25%

Astoria leaders gather to show support for new energy project and protest Ravenswood Generating Station. (Photo courtesy of Chris Singleton)

Community leaders and environmental activists came together outside of the Ravenswood Generating Station in Astoria on Friday, March 4, to show support for the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE), which would reduce the need to burn fossil fuels in the city by 25%. 

CHPE is a state project that would link the Montreal area to Astoria through a high-voltage direct cable carrying clean energy from Canada to New York City. Activists came to show support of CHPE and urge the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve the project. CHPE would help New York reach its ambitious climate agenda and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050. 

Costa Constantinides, the CEO of Variety Boys & Girls Club and former council member, mentioned that there is not much time to cut society’s dependence on fossil fuel facilities like the Ravenswood Generating Station, so the time to act is now. 

“We know the current dirty plants beyond impacting our climate produce pollution that has created an ‘asthma alley’ in our neighborhood west of 21st Street,” Constantinides said. “We need the PSC to approve CHPE immediately to help us combat climate change and improve our air quality.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ravenswood Generating Station has emitted nearly 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and 0.06 metric tons of methane in 2020. The total population within three miles of the plant is 1,214,778, 45% of whom are people of color.

CHPE would bring enough energy to power more than 1 million New York City homes, all while reducing the use of fossil fuels by 25%. The project would also create an estimated 1,400 jobs and bring $3.5 billion in economic benefits for local New York communities. 

Jonathan Forgash, the executive director of Queens Together, a community organization dedicated to public health, organized the March 4 rally to urge the state agency to approve CHPE. 

“Ninety percent of the city’s power comes from burning fossil fuels and more than half of that is done right here in Queens,” Forgash said. “This has been devastating to the health and wealth of our community. CHPE must be approved. Our residents and businesses will all breathe easier when the air is cleaner, our neighbors are healthier, and we can avoid the expensive fossil fuel spikes that we are experiencing today.”

Queens County has an above-average rate of asthma, specifically in adults, with 9.3% affected compared to the national average of only 7%, according to the CDC. Northwestern Queens has been deemed “Asthma Alley” due to the disproportionately high rates of the disease.

Stephanie Chauncey, a community leader and resident of the Queensbridge Houses, said that she and her neighbors deserve to live in an area unpolluted by fossil fuels.

“Residents in Astoria and Long Island City have had to deal with respiratory illness due to toxins in the air for far too long,” Chauncey said. “We need a clean energy transition for our community and to reduce the burning of polluting fossil fuels in our neighborhoods.”