Power Lies! It turns out state was wrong — A’Yards will tax electric service, raising rates

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When your electric bill goes up, put some of the blame on Atlantic Yards, Con Edison officials said last week.

The utility’s assessment, given at an Assembly hearing in Albany on May 23, apparently contradicts assurances by Atlantic Yards supporters in the state government who last year insisted that Bruce Ratner’s mega-development would have only an “insignific­ant” impact on the energy grid.

Con Ed officials testified that they needed a 17-percent rate hike to boost an energy infrastructure that will be strained by developments like those planned at Atlantic Yards and the West Side railyards.

Company spokesman Chris Olert later sought to soften his bosses’ statements, asserting that the Atlantic Yards and West Side railyards are “just one megapixel in the giant diorama of city projects.”

“Look at the projects in Brooklyn alone, like the new passenger ship terminal, the expansion of Steiner Studios in the Navy Yard,” said Olert. “The city’s in the midst of a boom.”

That did little to mollify Atlantic Yards opponents, who saw the company’s very public admission as yet one more strike against the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency that concluded in November that Atlantic Yards’ “increases in [energy] demand would be insignific­ant.”

Opponents have long argued that the ESDC’s “environmen­tal impact statement” looked at the eight-million-square-foot Atlantic Yards project in a vacuum without fully considering the impact of the tens of millions of additional square feet of residential, commercial, retail and office space being built or slated to be built in the immediate vacinity of Atlantic Yards.

“When it came to the electrical grid, the state basically said, ‘Don’t worry. No problem,’” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which is fighting the project. “Clearly, they were misleading the public.”

Indeed, the state’s final environmental impact statement declared that, “The municipal systems serving the site have adequate capacity to meet the projected increases in demand from the proposed project.”

The ESDC did not respond to requests for comment, but Olert said the state’s assessment of Con Ed’s capacity was correct.

“We can meet their needs,” said Olert. “For any new project — whether it’s a big development or single family home — we would have to pull pipes or wires. You cannot pin the entire rate increase on one project.”

That said, last month, the energy giant asked for a 17-percent increase in rates. While the exact relationship between the Atlantic Yards project and the rate hikes remains murky, at least one expert said there was little question that the 16-skyscraper-and-arena project would be a drain on the city’s energy resources.

“It’s a pretty big project,” said Jason Babbie of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Clearly, it will have an impact.”

As any Econ professor will attest, increased demand + limited supply = increased prices. “The economics are pretty simple,” said Babbie.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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