Queens Chronicle: Western Queens Folk Rally to Clear the Air

Activists Want Ravenswood Stacks Replaced with a Clean Power Hub

A group of about 200 people, including many children, rallied on Monday in support of Rise Light & Power’s plan to convert the Ravenswood Generating Station in Long Island City, which produces about a fifth of the city’s electricity, into a clean energy hub focused on wind power. Burning fossil fuels at the plant leads to higher asthma rates among area children, speakers said. PHOTO BY STEPHANIE G. MEDITZ

Rise Light & Power’s plan to transition the Ravenswood Generating Station into a renewable energy hub was met with support from residents in the surrounding areas on Monday.

Established in 1963, Ravenswood provides 2,500 megawatts of energy to New York City by burning fossil fuels, which causes poor air quality in neighboring communities and nearby New York City Housing Authority developments including the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the nation. The Long Island City plant produces about one-fifth of NYC’s electric power.

Rise Light & Power’s “Renewable Ravenswood” plan will repurpose existing infrastructure to connect offshore wind, upstate wind and solar power to New York City’s electric grid and advance the state’s goal of 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. It includes a large-scale battery storage facility on site to ensure reliable energy in the absence of wind and sun.

Rise Light & Power also pledged to work with local nonprofits to prepare community members for career opportunities in renewable energy.

Former Astoria Houses Resident Association President Claudia Coger raised seven children before the Ravenswood smokestacks were built, and they never had respiratory problems. However, her granddaughter and two great-grandchildren suffer from asthma.

“That really hit me to be involved, because I know that this made a difference,” she told the Chronicle, motioning to the stacks.

She told a crowd of 200 that children in the area known colloquially as “Asthma Alley” miss at least 30 days of school due to poor air quality.

Former City Councilmember Costa Constantinides said asthma rates, emergency room visits and hospitalizations for asthma west of 21st Street are higher than the borough average.

“The core principles of environmental justice theory show us how time and time again, Black and brown, lower income and public housing communities are left to suffer the harsh effects of pollution,” Bishop Mitchell Taylor said.

Asked how NYC would receive one-fifth of its electricity during Ravenswood’s transition to renewable energy, Mentors On The Move 4 Life CEO Tyrone Freedom Gardner said there is “no real healthy replacement.”

“I don’t see anything else where the result of it can help us with what we’re trying to push for,” he said.

“The whole plan is where they’re positioning these wind things along the water, and the water and earth, they create all of the energy and stuff that’s going on in the air,” he added. “That would be a perfect place to get the source from — the water. And also solar’s going to be involved with it.”

Coger also did not know how NYC would receive power in the interim, but she emphasized that the community intends to be involved in the process.

“I do know that once they take these stacks down, there’s a transition that would take place,” she said. “That’s the number one thing we have to do right now is to take the stacks down. But also, we want to make sure, this is why we are here today, that we are keyed into … the proposal that’s on the governor’s desk now.”

With many young students in attendance, several speakers emphasized that the transition to clean energy benefits future generations.

“By taking down the Ravenswood generating plants and transitioning to cleaner energy sources like wind energy, we can significantly reduce harmful emissions and improve air quality in our communities,” Take Down the Stacks organizer Stephen Michael said. “This not only benefits our health but also contributes to a more sustainable future for generations to come … protecting our generations to come is what is necessary if we want to make a real impact.”

The plan requires local, state and federal approval to come to fruition. Attendees signed petitions for Hochul’s approval and texted their NYS representatives.

By Stephanie G. Meditz