Thursday, July 24, 2008

Activists Take Steam Out of Gas Plant Plan in Greenpoint (Block Magazine)

When you think of what Greenpoint and Williamsburg need, what comes to mind first: a 28-acre waterfront park or a power plant? If you went with park, the elected officials, community boards, residents and activists of the area agree with you.

North Brooklyn got one step closer to adding Bushwick Inlet Park to its résumé when the State officially killed TransGas Energy's plan to build a $2 billion power plant on eight acres of land along the East River between North 12th and 14th Streets on Kent Avenue. The State siting board put the nail in the coffin on March 20th, due to the fact their proposal failed to meet health and environmental requirements. TransGas has tried to push through their power-plant agenda several times in the past, most recently 2002.

While this was a decisive victory for the park, TransGas Energy (TGE) is expected not to give up yet. Legal counsel to GWAPP (Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning) and Open Space Alliance board member Adam Perlmutter broke down the legal wrangling still left to unfold, saying, "TransGas has filed a petition for a rehearing. The City and Columbia Environmental Law Clinic compile their briefs in opposition in 10 days, on which the board will rule in 90 days."

If and when TGE's appeal fails, they then have thirty days to file an appeal with the appellate division second department on the grounds that the Environmental Siting Board used its discretion in an arbitrary or capricious fashion. Perlmutter said that TGE's chances of success at this point are extremely slim. "Those are extremely high standards to meet,” he asserted. “To say we don't expect TransGas to prevail doesn't convey how strongly I believe they're really not going to get anywhere."

Steve Hindy, OSA Board-member and Founder of Brooklyn Brewery, threw a party to celebrate the community's victory over TransGas. Community activists in attendance included Joe Vance, a prominent Williamsburg Architect and GWAPP and OSA Board-member. He commented on the long fight the community has undertaken with TransGas at which he's been at the front. "It started back in 2000 when Con Edison tried to build a power plant in Greenpoint,” he recalled, “and that's when GWAPP was formed, Greenpoint Williamsburg Against Power Plants."

Gerry Esposito, District Manager of Community Board One was also there to celebrate. His comments reflected the battle that lies ahead: "We're very fortunate that we won the battle, we're lucky to have a community to have fought so hard. Now the battle to be fought is to convince the city to volunteer the necessary money to build the park."

One can't help but admire that resolve and generosity with which people in the community lend their time and money towards fighting special interests such as TransGas.

The victory was largely possible because there is more solidarity today than ever before. "Before 2000, there were certainly six or seven groups in the community doing good things, but the problem was none of them were united,” recalls GWAPP board member Joe Vance. “There were too many little voices. The officials at the time really used that. They would say, 'Oh well, we don't see a consensus.' And that was really when we got together and decided we had to work together."

Vance was not the only person to notice this trend.

"I don't think that another community that hadn't been as organized through formal organizations and long-term planning process taking control of its land use would fare as well as we have,” Adam Perlmutter commented. “It's not just GWAPP and others; it’s the community boards 197 planning process [and] the fact that the community has taken it upon itself to become extremely sophisticated in the area environmental protection and land use. The proof is in the pudding."

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