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Plans for Floating Power Generator Off Williamsburg Concerns Neighbors

By Gwynne Hogan | April 28, 2016 4:06pm
 You have until April 30 to voice concerns about a proposal to build a natural-gas-fired floating power plant in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
You have until April 30 to voice concerns about a proposal to build a natural-gas-fired floating power plant in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
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Brooklyn Navy Yard

WILLIAMSBURG — "Serious concerns" about a floating natural-gas-fired power plant planned for the Brooklyn Navy Yard near the Williamsburg waterfront should be discussed at a public meeting, locals say.

NYC Energy LLC has applied to the Army Corps of Engineers to build a 230 foot by 100 foot power generating barge that would be permanently moored in the Wallabout Channel, according to documents. 

Plans went up on the Army Corps of Engineers' website in late March, but Williamsburg community board members received no formal communication and stumbled across the application by accident, said Community Board 1 Chairman Gerald Esposito. 

Technically the barge would fall in another community district, though it's situated next to the Williamsburg waterfront.

Representatives of NYC Energy LLC, whose sister company SEF Industries has also been involved in plans for the power plant, didn't respond to a request for comment. The company had tried at least twice in the past two decades to build the floating power plant, according to reports and court records.

SEF Industries claimed the natural gas fueled power plant would "improve New York City’s air quality by displacing electricity production from older, dirtier and less efficient generating capacity," according to a draft of the proposal from 2012.

Back in 2000, NYC Energy LLC tried to build the generator, but ultimately a group of local activists managed to prevent that from happening in New York State Appeals Court.

Since then, the whole area has been rezoned for residential use, pointed out Kathleen Gilrain, whose organization Stop the Barge had spearheaded the effort to fight the barge more than a decade ago.

“There’s an existing girls' school, a park with a ball field where kids are playing every day,” she said, adding that Rose Plaza, a massive waterfront development, is slated to be built right across from the barge's proposed location.

"The existing conditions have changed radically."

Residents and local elected officials are urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the April 30 deadline for the public to submit comments and hold a public meeting on the proposal, according to two letters.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol asked for the hearing in a letter addressed to Jun Yan, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"The historical nature of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the potential for environmental impact by the power generation barge makes it imperative that a public hearing take place to ensure absolute participation by the community and all groups with a relevant interest in this matter," Lentol wrote in the April 11 letter. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged that letter and said once the public comment period was closed it would determine if a public hearing will be held, according to Edward Baker, a spokesman for Lentol's office.

This week more local representatives had signed on to the call for a public meeting and extended public comment period, according to the the Brooklyn Paperwhich first reported on the plans for the floating barge.

And an email was sent out to residents at The Schaefer Landing North Condominium by the water at 440 Kent Ave. on April 26, asking them to speak out against the generator before the public comment period ended.

"This will impact the property value and most importantly the environment," wrote Keith Allone, the building's general manager.

"We ask that all residents immediately send a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers voicing their opposition to the floating power generator barge and requesting a public hearing to debate this issue."

Yan and a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn't respond to an immediate request for comment.