Governor Kathy Hochul came to Astoria on Sept. 19 to announce that the transformation of “Asthma Alley” is underway with the construction of a converter station at the Con Edison Yard just north of the Hell Gate Bridge. Once completed, the state-of-the-art facility will convert 1,250 megawatts of clean energy from the 339-mile Champlain Hudson Power Express underground transmission line into power for one million New York City homes.
“Renewable energy plays a critical role in the transformation of our power grid while creating a cleaner environment for our future generations,” Hochul said. “The transformation of a fossil fuel site into a zero-emission facility highlights the world of possibilities we have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, mitigate the impact of climate change and accelerate our collective progress of shifting our power grid to go green.”
The facility is being built at the location of the old Charles Poletti Power Plant which was closed in 2010 after it was named the city’s worst polluter and torn down. Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said the ground-breaking ceremony in Astoria, coinciding with Climate Week NYC, represents the start of a new era.
“Queens knows all too well the devastating consequences of unchecked climate change and fossil fuel consumption. To ensure our borough is not only a livable but thriving place for the next generations, we must move with the urgency of now in our total transition to renewable energy,” Richards said. “That promise of a cleaner, more sustainable future is exactly what the Champlain Hudson Power Express represents. As Queens continues its push toward becoming a global leader in resiliency and renewable energy, our borough is grateful to everyone on each side of the U.S.-Canada border who had a hand in making this day possible.”
Significant remediation work was required to prepare the site for the construction of the zero-emissions facility. In total, six tanks which previously stored 12 million gallons of No. 6 oil, as well as nearly four miles of piping were removed from the site. During peak construction, approximately 150 union workers will develop the facility with Kiewit Corporation as the lead contractor for the site, which is expected to begin operating in 2026.
“Con Edison is a proud supporter of the Champlain Hudson Power Express because it is clear to us that climate change poses a real and urgent threat,” Con Edison’s Chairman and CEO Tim Cawley said. “The clean energy transition is critical for New York’s future which is why we’re expanding and strengthening our energy system to meet the region’s growing demand for electricity. Today’s milestone also serves as a great example of how the transition from fossil fuels to renewables creates jobs and contributes to a robust economy.”
The new construction paves the way for the first-ever transformation of a fossil fuel site into a grid-scale zero-emissions facility in New York City.
“We often talk about fighting climate change in terms of our ambitions for the long term, but today, with construction on the Champlain Hudson Power Express well under way, we are talking about delivering big results in less than three years,” Hydro-Quebec COO Serge Abergel said. “Broadening the clean energy conversation was critical to our shared success, and will be essential to building future renewable projects. Hydro-Quebec’s commitment to continuing this conversation with New York communities will be ongoing for the next 25 years and more.”
Champlain Hudson Power Express will bring clean, renewable hydropower from Québec to Astoria, known as “Asthma Alley” for generations of residents in western Queens who have suffered from high rates of respiratory diseases due to the fossil fuel-burning power plants in that part of the borough that provide more than 55% of the city’s electricity.
“The Champlain Hudson Power Express will deliver cleaner and lower cost power to the people of New York, create clean energy union jobs of the future, and support the Biden-Harris administration investments towards a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and decarbonized economy by 2050,” U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary David Turk said. “I applaud Hydro-Quebec, Transmission Developers, Inc., and all community and government partners on this momentous step forward.”
CHPE will provide competitively priced hydropower from Québec that is expected to deliver enough clean energy to power over one million homes and is expected to reduce harmful emissions by 3.7 million metric tons – the equivalent of removing approximately 44 percent of the cars from New York City streets. In addition, the project is also expected to provide a total of $3.5 billion in economic benefits to New Yorkers and create approximately 1,400 family-sustaining jobs during construction, with a commitment to use a significant amount of union labor.
Former Councilman Costa Constantinides, who championed NYC’s Green New Deal in 2019 before stepping down to become CEO of Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens in Astoria, applauded the governor’s announcement.
“Today is a great day for the energy transition away from fossil fuels here in Astoria,” Constantinides said. “For too long our community has borne the brunt of fossil fuel production and the health impacts that have turned our neighborhood into Asthma Alley. The CHPE converter transformation promises us 1250 MW of clean power flowing to Astoria protecting our lungs while powering our homes. I am so excited to have CHPE become part of the fabric of our community and be a long-term partner here in Astoria. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen and continues to fight to transform Asthma Alley into Renewable Row. Our kids are excited to be part of this revolution and the investment CHPE has made in their futures.”