Will start powering homes in late 2020s
By Matthew Fischetti
Western Queens pols and community leaders packed into the gymnasium of the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens last week to celebrate a historic investment towards renewable energy.
At the Friday announcement, it was unveiled that the Astoria Generation Station located on 20th Ave. will be transformed into a converter station for renewable energy, named the Astoria Gateway for Renewable Energy. The new plant is estimated to power 1 million homes starting in the late 2020s with construction for the site predicted to begin in 2025, pending
The project will be completed by Beacon Wind, which is a 50-50 partnership between energy provider Equinor and the gas company BP.
Former Astoria Councilman and current C.E.O of the VBGCQ, Costa Constantinides, noted the historical and personal ramifications that the high concentration of plants in the neighborhood, known as Asthma Alley, has had.
“My own son, I remember when he was young – having an asthma medication, a liquid, another medication. Then taking something to settle his stomach because he just took all of that. Then he ate breakfast. Then he would have to put a nebulizer over his face. Not just when he was sick, that was just Tuesday,” Constantinides said.
Officials and activists rallied outside the power plant two years ago when the previous owner NRG wanted to convert the turbines into a natural gas based plant.
“First, I want to acknowledge the change this all around the hundreds of organizing volunteers who worked so hard to change the status quo to make this celebration, what it is today,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer who joined the protests and even testified in front of the Public Service Commission, the entity which regulates public utilities throughout the state.
“But we wanted to send a message for both this community and the entire state who were serious about the transition to clean energy,” he continued. “They [critics]were saying it’s a false choice between jobs and climate justice. Well that was bullshit.’
Schumer also noted in his speech that he wants to make Long Island, including the Brooklyn and Queens parts, the “offshore wind center of the county.”
“If we had listened to the words of NRG all those years ago or a day like today would never have happened,” said Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani, who represents parts of Astoria and participated in the protests against NRG. “This is a repudiation of the idea that fossil fuel executives should set the limits of possibility in Astoria. In New York City, in New York state and across this country.”
Equinor also announced a million dollar partnership through Beacon Wind to build a Technology and Media center along with a $750,000 over ten year commitment to help fund a Science and Technology program for youth at the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens. Morris said that the program aims to be a gateway for New York children to have opportunities to enter the renewable energy sector.
“ I’ve spent 68 years here in Astoria. And I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the difference when it comes to the air,” former Resident Association President and current Astoria Houses resident Claudia Croger said.
Croger said that when she moved into the neighborhood her seven kids didn’t suffer from asthma but that three of her grandchildren did due to the power plant’s effect on the local air quality.
“It gives me joy to know that change is coming,” she continued. “Our children will be able to live in clean air and breathe. And their parents will gain because they won’t have to pay copays out of the lunch money, their food money, or clothes money.”