Controversial Astoria power plant to be dismantled

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Charles Poletti Power Plant will be torn down beginning in early 2013.
Charles Poletti Power Plant will be torn down beginning in early 2013.

After powering down several years ago, a controversial power plant is finally going to be dismantled.

Years of litigation, led by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., ended with the shuttering of operations at the old branch of the Charles Poletti Power Plant on 20th Avenue in Astoria in 2010. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced this week that the defunct facility will be torn down beginning in early 2013. Since the closure of the plant almost three years ago, the councilmember and now borough president hopeful has fought diligently for its destruction — a fight, he said, that was not easily won.

“It’s dangerous, it’s an eyesore and they’re finally going to get rid of it,” said Vallone.

A NYPA spokesperson said they agreed to close the Poletti power plant as part of a commitment to improving regional air quality when plant officials applied for a license to build a new state-of-the-art 500-MW Combined Cycle Project, fueled by clean natural gas. Since 2010, NYPA has been planning the engineering needed for dismantling the Poletti plant and in September 2012 awarded a $21 million contract for its destruction.

The spokesperson added that the plant has never been a safety hazard.

According to Vallone, much of his push to have the plant destroyed stemmed from fear that operations could restart at the facility, as is common practice at many previously shut down plants. While he said Poletti does not pose the risk of exploding, it once ranked as the plant with the worst emissions record of any in the state. He also mentioned a study that claimed the plant’s emissions were worse than those of plants in all other New York City boroughs combined.

“The people of Western Queens can finally breathe a fresh sigh of relief knowing the old Poletti plant will be torn down and never create a dark cloud over their heads again,” said Vallone.

Senator Michael Gianaris, who has also been involved in the demise of the plant, said western Queens residents are rejoicing over the destruction of the city’s biggest polluter.

“Many of us remember all too well the toxic, dirty air emitted by the plant that plagued our neighborhood for decades, and it was thanks to our hard work that the plant finally closed,” said Gianaris. “As we prepare to ring in the new year, I look forward to celebrating the much-awaited deconstruction of this power plant as well as continuing our work to make western Queens a green neighborhood whose residents are healthy and air is clean.”

Astoria is home to five of the city’s major power plants, estimated by Vallone to produce nearly 80 percent of the city’s power supply.