Hit the gas! Williamsburg residents, pols fight floating generator

EXCLUSIVE!: Developer revives controversial plan for floating power plant near Williamsburg
Photo by Louise Wateridge

They are fighting the power!

Williamsburg residents and pols are firing up their efforts to stop a planned floating power plant in the Wallabout Channel after finding out about it only last week — demanding the federal government give them more time to research and weigh in on the gas-burning barge that many worry will pump noise and air pollution into the neighborhood.

“This project raises serious concerns about boaters’ access to the channel and public health and safety,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg), who fought a similar proposal more than a decade ago. “Before any final decisions are made, there must be a full public review and input from the community.”

Many critics say they only learned of developer Sef Industries’ plan to moor a 79-megawatt natural gas generator the length of a luxury yacht in the water off the Navy Yard when this paper broke the news last Friday.

It did come up briefly at a Community Board 1 meeting on April 12, but some in attendance claim they didn’t realize what was really being discussed at the time.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the passage, is only taking comments on the fossil-fuel-firing dynamo from members of the public until Saturday, but residents and local leaders say that’s not enough time — especially given the company’s public plans are very light on specifics.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint), Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) and the chairs of Community Boards 1 and 2 penned a joint letter to the federal agency on Tuesday demanding those in the corridors of power host a public hearing, extend the comment period, and reveal more details about the barge.

A rep for Squadron’s office said the Army Corps of Engineers told him it won’t decide whether to grant their wishes until the end of the current comment period.

Velazquez and Lentol battled a similar proposal from Sef in 2003, and a coalition of local activists called Stop the Barge ultimately sunk the scheme with a lawsuit arguing they weren’t given enough time to offer their two cents. The group says it is back in contact with its attorney about the new iteration.

And at least one local says he and others are already planning to leave the nabe if they aren’t successful in stopping it this time around.

“I would relocate out of the area, and perhaps the borough, if the plant was built on the channel and I know I wouldn’t be alone,” said a Williamsburg man who lives at the opening of the channel on Kent Avenue and asked not to be named in case he does end up needing to sell his property.

Sunset Parkers already live next to several of the big buoyant batteries — one of which exploded in 2012.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill