2001-09-01 / Front Page

Work On LIPA Site Continues

Work On LIPA Site Continues

Despite Community Concerns

By Howard Schwach

Work at the site of the proposed Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) substation on Beach Channel Drive between Beach 108 and Beach 112 Streets goes on despite the demands of many community representatives and civic leaders that the work be halted until a number of questions about the site are resolved.

"You know what ignites this community, and this is it," Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer told officials of both Keyspan and LIPA at a meeting that was held at the Peninsula Library last Friday morning. "To take a contaminated site and then move ahead and build on it without more that an offhand comment to the community is wrong."

"We want you to stop whatever you are doing on the site until the community gets answers to its questions," she added.

The company experts at the meeting, however, disagreed.

Citing the fact that the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had given them the green light for the project on that site and the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) had given them the go ahead for the building itself, the officials said that it would be "unfair and expensive" to force them to stop" at the present time.

A number of questions arose at the meeting, the major question being notification for the community.

"At no time was there more than a passing mention that you were going to upgrade the site in the future," said Liz Sulik, president of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce. "At no time were we told that there was an application to DEC to delist the site."

"That gives rise to total skepticism on the part of the community," she said.

"You were quoted as saying that the community was notified every step of the way," Jonathon Gaska, district manager for Community Board 14 said. "We never got any formal notification that the site was delisted and that you were going to begin work."

"I guess that your definition of ‘every step of the way" is different than mine," LIPA spokesperson Tracy Burgess-Levy replied.

The DEC, in a letter to LIPA dated October 13, 2000, took the site off the superfund list and gave LIPA and Keyspan the permission to build on the site.

"We are looking to spend $10.5 million to support the electrical needs of the Rockaways," says John Chiesa, the project manager for LIPA. "There is a frail infrastructure that might collapse the next time we have a heat alert. Rockaway needs this electricity."

When one of the local activists said that she wanted the present substation closed and the new substation to be built in the same area, Chiesa said, "if we closed that substation, there would be no power in Rockaway west of Beach 80 Street."

"Everybody in the west end would be using candles," he added.

A number of local civic organizations have submitted letters to the company, asking that it stop work for a short time.

"At this time, we demand that you cease any further work activity (at the site) and demand full disclosure of information regarding permission to commence the work," a August 23 letter from Michael O’ Connor, president of the Neponsit Property Owner’s Association to Chiesa read.

That association is reportedly working to get the city to repeal its building permit.

Other groups are working to find if community notification were necessary to delist the site.

Meanwhile, work continues. No further meetings have been planned.

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