Facilities In Plans For Queens
By Melanie Carroll
Astoria Energy wants to convert this site with
$600 million into a natural gas-fired power plant.
Astoria Energy doesnt have an office yet. Its phone number rings but no one
answers. The company is a subsidiary of SCS Energy in Concord, Massachusetts, where its
phone number is unlisted. The private company has little to do with Queens except for its
City Council Speaker Peter Vallone is against Astoria Energys plans to build a
high-tech low-emission electricity plant in Astoria.
In a letter written to a Chris McGrath, a representative of the energy company, Vallone
wrote, "I am inalterably opposed to the construction of this, or any other facility
which would add to the total amount of air pollution in my district."
Astoria Energy says its $600 million natural gas-fired facility will provide New York
City with the energy it desperately needs, in an environmentally conscientious way. A
representative of the company said the citys recent blackout illustrates the need
for increased electricity.
In a letter to the Speaker, McGrath pointed to the companys environmentally
sound, low emission technology.
"We plan to clearly distinguish between the current and now obsolete generating
technology and the state of the art low emission technology which Astoria Energy, LLC
proposes for the 26 acre Castle Oil Site," McGrath wrote.
The four-year project slated for the 26-acre Castle Oil Site, next to Con Eds
Astoria facility, would produce 1000 megawatts of power enough to power a small
city. The company chose the site for its proximity to Con Eds gas transmission
system and New York Citys transmission system.
In addition to promising "competitive clean energy," the company says 250
construction and 25 full-time jobs would be created.
Clean or not, Astoria Energy cannot go forward with its project until it goes through
the citys ULURP Uniform Land Use Regulation Review Procedure. Bernice
Spitzer, spokeswoman for Peter Vallone said the city has the final word. "It has to
go through ULURP or it doesnt go," she commented.
Astoria Energy purchased the 26-acre Castle Oil Site for an undisclosed amount of
money, spurred on by the states deregulation of power. "Deregulation has driven
this whole thing," said a representative of Astoria Energy.
Con Ed is getting out of the power generation business leaving it to companies like
Astoria Energy. In June, Con Ed sold its turbine complex in Astoria to NRG Inc.; the
utilitys generating station was sold to Orion Power Holdings.
Deregulations goal is to create a competitive environment for energy companies,
so that prices will be forced down and passed on to the consumer.
Keyspan Expands Ravenswood
In another example of deregulation, Keyspan Corp. is expanding its new plant to provide
12 percent more electricity during times of high demand. The company bought Con Eds
Ravenswood plant last month for $597 million.
The project will give Keyspan 250 additional megawatts, increasing its capacity to
2,418 megawatts enough to power 2.4 million homes. The expansion is expected to be
completed in 2002 at an undetermined cost.
The company is considering building more plants in New York and Long Island, although
the company has not announced when or where.
With headquarters in Brooklyn and Hicksville, Long Island, Keyspan owns Brooklyn Union
Gas Company and has five power plants that generate electricity for the Long Island Power
Authority. The company provides electricity for a total of 2.6 customers in Brooklyn and
Evaluates & Explains
By Melanie Carroll
While the blackouts that began July continue to cause controversy and inspire damage
claims, thunderstorms added a Jamaica blackout to the list of complaints and raised more
questions about the state of Con Edison in Queens.
On Monday, July 19, just over 3,000 residents lost power in a ten block area of
Hollis-St. Albans. They continued without power for two hours, starting at 6:39 p.m.
Unlike blackouts the week before in parts of Howard Beach, College Point, and Whitestone,
this outage was from downed power lines victim to a violent thunderstorm.
Over July 5-7, heat complications shut down Con Edisons power. In College Point,
5,600 customers were without electricity on July 6. Nearly 3,000 Howard Beach residents
were blacked out intermittently July 5 and 6.
An outraged City Council Speaker Peter Vallone reacted. "When New Yorkers needed
power the most, Con Ed was unable to provide it. We need to know if Con Ed is ready for
the 21st Century." Vallone has called for immediate action by Con Edison to modernize
and update their systems so that there is no further disruption in electricity, even when
temperatures reach near triple digits.
The utility told the Queens Tribune this week that they are evaluating the
Queens systems that broke down from July 5-7.
They explained that the power outages stemmed from low voltage feeders and their
connecting wires. Feeders supply electrical wires with electricity, which in turn, power
homes and businesses.
If they discover something in their system is in need of repair, Con Ed said, it will
be fixed, but they gave no indication that any major work on the Queens system was planned
at the current time.
Con Edison will be repaying customers for monetary losses during the black out. Private
individuals whose food spoiled can file for up to $100; businesses who lost food can get
up to $1200 from Con Ed. Claims should be sent within 30 days to: Con Ed, Claim Bureau, 4
Irving Place room 1820, NY, NY 10003.
Do When The Lights Go Out
By Richard Schack
Be they "brownouts" or "blackouts," loss of power by any other name
or reason is still a problem in the summer heat of Queens.
According to the experts, a "brownout" differs from a total blackout because
a brownout is when your home only receives a lower voltage of power than usual a
power reduction usually between three and eight percent caused by operating
While Con Ed takes its precautions, there are also things you can do as a homeowner.
The most important factor of all, said Cronson, is to "conserve energy as much as
you can . . . Another important way to help prevent a brownout is to make sure you trim
your tree branches outside your house. Old or dead trees about to fall can make contact
with the wires, thereby increasing the likelihood of a brownout."
Lastly, if a brownout occurs in your home, said Cronson, "The first thing to do is
call Con Ed at our Customer Service line (1-800-72-CON ED). As soon as power goes out,
shut off everything possible. It is considerably important to make sure all unnecessary
appliances are off, because leaving too many appliances on can cause the feeder to trip
"To keep cool, raise the air conditioner temperature to at least 78 degrees, or
shut it off to conserve energy. Be conservative with your trips to the refrigerator, as
you will want to conserve as much cool air as possible," said Cronson.
Queensbridge Got Rough,
So Did Normandeau
By Melanie Carroll
Ray Normandeau - a public housing activist - is
When the going gets tough, the tough go digital. So when Ray Normandeau turned on
the hot water in his Queensbridge Houses apartment on July 7, only to find a stream of
cold water, he headed for his computer.
New York City had indefinitely shut off all hot water at Queensbridge Houses in Long
Island City to save electricity in the midst of the heat wave. A simple note posted in the
hall read "Effective immediately: all Heating Plants are to be shut down until
But Normandeau knew what to do. "I called the president of the Tenants
Association, the Housing Authoritys emergency number, and the Department of
Health," said Normandeau. "I got nowhere. I found out the Mayor had made the
final decision to shut off the hot water. I was outraged."
Sitting in front of his 1987 computer, he generated a press release, plugged in his
fax/email modem and sent it to over 300 news outlets across the city. The next day the hot
water was back on at Queensbridge. The story had hit and Newsday wrote about
the frustration of 15,000 people whose water had been shut off.
But Normandeau lived it and wrote it first.
This civic acitivist is a one man operation serving as the Press Secretary of the
Queensbridge Tenant Council. Above his computer, a sign reads "Normadeau
Newswire" and just above it is an aerosol can with the words "NYCHA [NYC Housing
Authority] BS Repellent" written across it. He scrolls through an enormous database
of media contacts ranging from the Associated Press, to the Daily News and
"Im using my computer to kick ass," he said. He puts his hands-free
headset on, highlights a name in the database, and pushes a button. Then the computer
dials the number and hes chatting away through the headset. When hes not
talking, hes writing the latest story for the Queensbridge Enquirer
his own 25 cent newsletter. He also maintains a website for Queensbridge residents
An actor by training, Normandeau has held a variety of jobs, including commercials on
HBO, portraying the Swiss Knight Swiss Cheese "Swiss Knight," and acting as a
paramedic on NYPD Blue.
Normandeau became involved in the Queensbridge community years ago after moving into
public housing in 1973.
In 1989, he complained to the Housing Authority about a problem in his apartment. The
NYCHA wrote him back and, in a dense full-page paragraph, told him to go through numerous
NYCHA employees to report a problem starting with District Director and ending with the
Deputy General Manager.
"I live [in Queensbridge] by choice. I like it here," said Normandeau. And as
long as there is a battle to be reported, or a power issue to be championed
Normadeau will be watching.