At a March press conference, advocates pushed for the Power Authority to commit to a more imminent deadline to decommission local peaker plants.

Community Board 1 joined elected officials, blasting the State and two energy companies for ignoring the needs of local residents, in a proposed project to bring renewable energy to New York City through the South Bronx waterfront. 

Critics say the State’s assurance to shut down four highly polluting power plants by 2035 is much too slow, and insist South Bronx residents are hired for new green jobs that the new project is expected to create. 

The power plants environmentalists have long criticized, known as peakers, are activated when energy demand in the city is highest, such as during summer heat waves. The State has said it would decommission the facilities by 2035, concurrent with plans to establish renewable energy initiatives that would bring wind, solar and hydro power to New York City from upstate and Canada via the Hudson River. Critics contend that’s much too long to wait for cleaner air in the South Bronx, where asthma rates are the city’s highest.

State Sen. Jose M. Serrano urged quick closures of the plants.

“Because we have been a community that has been historically disproportionately impacted, there should be no polluting facilities in Port Morris or in Hunts Point, and they should all be decommissioned,” said Serrano, adding attempts to shift away from fossil fuels toward clean energy “really should have a positive impact in our communities before we even do anything else anywhere else, because we’ve had to bear the brunt for so long.”

Advocates stress that the South Bronx should get something back, in return for the prospect of extensive new infrastructure that will run through the neighborhood as part of the renewable energy project. At the Mar. 31 virtual meeting, Chair Parks insisted that Board 1 have a say in how funds get dispersed for the Champlain Hudson Power Express, to ensure local residents are hired.

Last June, Transmission Developers and Hydro-Québec, the coalition behind that project, announced a $40 million Green Economy Fund to train people who live along its southward path, for green jobs and to aid individuals in “disadvantaged and frontline communities.” 

“It was not certain how much of the green energy fund would actually be allocated to our district,” said Parks.

The Power Express group says it will generate over 1,400 union jobs statewide, but Parks argued that few South Bronxites belong to that union. The board wants union apprenticeships to go to residents on the construction of the pipeline. 

Discussion at the meeting later turned to another hot button local issue: The city’s plan to construct a new jail on Concord Avenue, the one-time site of Lincoln Hospital. Parks announced that the site is now being prepped, nearby residents and businesses will receive notices, and that monitoring devices will be used to determine whether houses within a few blocks of the site are at risk of structural damage while the jail is being built.

Parks said she was told that local residents would not be hired on the $76.7 million construction project, for which the Yonkers Contracting Company Inc. won the bid. 

At Board 1’s Land Use Committee meeting on Mar. 9, representatives of South Bronx community organizations urged the board and area residents to oppose the jail, insisting there is still time to pressure the city to relocate to an area on 161st Street alongside the court complex.

“All the other borough based jails will be built adjacent to courthouses,” said Board 1 member Josephine Byrne at the earlier meeting. City officials have repeatedly countered that the site on 161st Street is inadequate, and the building would be have to be built to tall. 

Assembly member Amanda Septimo argued at the Mar. 9 meeting that community members “want something more aspirational. You’re hearing community members say” they don’t want a new jail built in Mott Haven, and that the community engagement part of the city’s plan has been inadequate.

“This process has been so botched,” said Septimo. “We have been yelling this at the top of our lungs here. The city should come back to the table and really get it right.”

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