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Developer revives controversial plan for floating power plant near Williamsburg

Powering up: The Wallabout Channel, where a developer wants to float a big power plant, despite objections from locals in the past.
Brooklyn Paper
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Call it a power play.

A developer has quietly revived a plan to build a floating power plant in a channel off the Brooklyn Navy Yard, more than a decade after local activists shut down its last attempt in court. The foes say they won the case arguing the public wasn’t given enough chance to comment — and were shocked to learn the gas-burning generator is back in the works and the end of the public comment period is once again just days away.

“I think they’re definitely trying to sneak it by because why don’t we know about it? Somebody should have been notified,” said Kathleen Gilrain of activist group Stop the Barge, who lives near the channel on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg and only found out about the proposal last Wednesday.

Stop the Barge won a lawsuit against the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2003 that halted Sef Industries’ plans for the six-story, 79-megawatt natural gas generator in the Wallabout Channel, successfully arguing it hadn’t done an adequate review on how it would affect the surrounding environment.

Now Sef — which originally stood for Sunset Energy Fleet, and once tried to build an even larger plant off Sunset Park that was also thwarted by local activists and pols — is asking the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to construct pipes to permanently secure a 220-foot by 100-foot barge and sell the energy in the case of natural disasters or attacks, according to documents it filed last month.

In a recent pitch to sell power from the proposed plant to the state, Sef honchos claimed they have all the permits they need to go ahead with the big, buoyant battery. The public comment period for the application ends April 30.

The activists and local officials railed against the previous plan because they believed it would be loud and cause air pollution that would make locals sick — especially the diesel fuel used to partially power the barge.

Gilrain believes it will be especially potent for the thousands of future residents moving into yet-to-be built developments across from the channel near Kent Avenue and S. 11th Street and at the old Domino Sugar Factory.

“Imagine being in a building when you have power plant stacks in front of your window,” she said.

The activists have now contacted their lawyer and say they plan to battle the barge once again.

The Army Corps of Engineers is encouraging anyone with reservations about the plan to send a comment to its Manhattan office by April 30. The comments will be taken into account when deciding on the application, according to documents.

Sef Industries did not return requests for comment.

You can send your comments to: US Army Corps of Engineers, NY District, Attn: Regulatory Branch, 26 Federal Plaza, Room 1937 New York, NY 10278.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to clarify Gilrain's comments.
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Reasonable discourse

Daniel from Dumbo says:
Seems out of step with the City's environmental sustainability efforts. Renewables would probably be more sensible, under dire circumstances.
April 22, 2016, 7:45 pm
schaz from greenpoint says:
Thank you for the article - BUT you could have provided a direct email link to the Army Corp of Engineers to allow commenting by the public!! Especially since time is of the essence.
Or are they so restrictive and backwards that they only allow mailed comments?
April 25, 2016, 10:14 am
Rob from Williamsburg says:
Go Kathleen! Thanks for helping protect southside residents.
April 25, 2016, 10:26 am
Robert Perris from Community Board 2 says:
The public notice states, "ALL COMMENTS REGARDING THE PERMIT APPLICATION MUST BE PREPARED IN WRITING AND MAILED TO REACH THIS OFFICE BEFORE THE EXPIRATION DATE OF THIS NOTICE, otherwise it will be presumed that there are no objections to this activity. Comment in writing could be mailed to US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District - ATTN. Regulatory Branch, 26 Federal Plaza, Room 1937, New York, N.Y. 10278"
April 25, 2016, 10:33 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Funny that I, a person who doesn't really care about it, found out about this 2 weeks ago, but the founder of Stop The Barge didn't know until Wednesday. I guess attending community board meetings gives me a wealth of useless information.
April 25, 2016, 11:34 am
Adam from South Williamsburg says:
I just (snail) mailed in a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers protesting the plant. I also emailed the DEP and State Senator Daniel Squadron.
April 25, 2016, 1:14 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Pardon me, but I think this boat is a great idea, just as long as nothing bad happens.
Thanks for listening.
John Wasserman
April 25, 2016, 2:11 pm
Adam from South Williamsburg says:

The best way to file this complaint is to send an email to the following:

Jun Yan, Project Manager

Jun.yan@usace.army.mil


Please be sure to include the public notice number NAN-2016-00062-EYA. All complaints must be received by April 30, 2016, the expiration date of the public notice.
April 26, 2016, 2:19 pm
schaz from greenpoint says:
Dear Adam from South Williamsburg:
are you quite sure you're not from "Sef Industries", encouraging people to email "the project manager" instead??
I believe the prior statement saying:
The public notice states, "ALL COMMENTS REGARDING THE PERMIT APPLICATION MUST BE PREPARED IN WRITING AND MAILED TO REACH THIS OFFICE BEFORE THE EXPIRATION DATE OF THIS NOTICE, otherwise it will be presumed that there are no objections to this activity. Comment in writing could be mailed to US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District - ATTN. Regulatory Branch, 26 Federal Plaza, Room 1937, New York, N.Y. 10278"
This is so totally unfair, not giving the surrounding community time to prepare a response.
At the very least the comment and response period MUST be extended to allow a full examination of what's at stake.
April 27, 2016, 6:25 pm
schaz from greenpoint says:
P.S. The surrounding area members of the Hasadic community (with their unified voting blocs and powerful local voice) should be immediaely informed of this very real danger and problem.
Can anyone assist with that in the short time remaining??
We need better and cheaper power transmission lines from Upstate and Canadian based sources , not more local polluting power plants in the middle of a densely populated city, harming both our children's and our own health.
April 27, 2016, 6:34 pm
schaz from greenpoint says:
Time is very short , so here's a template, if it can be of use in writing to the Army Corps. Just make sure to include this permit proposal number in your letter: NAN-2016-00062.

April 27th, 2016

US Army Corps of Engineers NY District
Attn: Regulatory Branch
26 Federal Plaza
Room 1937
New York, NY 10278
RE: Public Notice Number NAN-2016-00062

Dear Sir/Madam:
This comment is in reference to Public Notice Number NAN-2016-00062, regarding the permit application for the “permanent mooring of a power generation barge and the HDD installation of power cables under Wallabout Channel” in Brooklyn, New York.

I am strongly opposed to the issuance of a permit for this project for the reasons outlined below , and request a public hearing to collection information necessary to fully and fairly consider this application.

Also, it is crucial for the US Army Corps of Engineers to extend the comment period which has been allotted for this proposal (with a current deadline of April 30,2016), to allow full community notice and participation in the comment and participation with regard to this permit proposal.

This proposed project is directly adjacent to a densely populated section of New York City. It is an area which is due to become even more densely populated in the next few years with new housing developments being built thru-out the surrounding areas of the Brookyn waterfront.

This is absolutely no place to site a new power plant that has the very real potential to impact both our children’s and our own health, as well as producing a whole host of other negative environmental, safety, and aesthetic impacts.

Any potential benefits of this plant are minor, compared to the detrimental long term effects on the needs and welfare of the present and future surrounding communities. If needed, other sites and other sources for electric power must be considered and utilized. However, this permit must be rejected.

Very truly yours,
April 27, 2016, 7:42 pm
schaz from greenpoint says:
MY BAD. I negected to include the FULL permit application number, as corrected below:

Time is very short (you must write / no emails to the Army Corp of Engineers by April 30th with your comment). So here's a template, if it can be of use. Just make sure to include this permit proposal number in your letter: NAN-2016-00062-EYA. It would also be great to involve the nearby Hasidic community, with its unified and powerful voice.April 27th, 2016

US Army Corps of Engineers NY District
Attn: Regulatory Branch
26 Federal Plaza
Room 1937
New York, NY 10278
RE: Public Notice Number NAN-2016-00062-EYA

Dear Sir/Madam:

This comment is in reference to Public Notice Number NAN-2016-00062-EYA, regarding the permit application for the “permanent mooring of a power generation barge and the HDD installation of power cables under Wallabout Channel” in Brooklyn, New York.

I am strongly opposed to the issuance of a permit for this project for the reasons outlined below , and request a public hearing to collecti all the nformation necessary to fully and fairly consider this application.

Also, it is crucial for the US Army Corps of Engineers to extend the comment period which has been allotted for this proposal (with a current deadline of April 30,2016), to allow full community notice and participation in the comment and participation with regard to this permit proposal.

This proposed project is directly adjacent to a densely populated section of New York City. It is an area which is due to become even more densely populated in the next few years with new housing developments being built thru-out the surrounding areas of the Brookyn waterfront.

This is absolutely no place to site a new power plant that has the very real potential to impact both our children’s and our own health, as well as producing a whole host of other negative environmental, safety, and aesthetic impacts.

Any potential benefits of this plant are minor, compared to the detrimental long term effects on the needs and welfare of the present and future surrounding communities. If needed, other sites and other sources for electric power must be considered and utilized. However, this permit must be rejected.
Very truly yours,
April 27, 2016, 8:12 pm
Bennett Steven from Williamsburg says:
This is a very big deal - and something that should be of serious concern to ALL Brooklyn residents. Just as the city is experiencing a spectacular residential rebirth of the Williamsburg waterfront, the Navy Yard and Army Corp of Engineers are considering placing a gas-fired electric power-plant in the back yard - quite literally - of several large residential buildings! Gas-fired electrical plants emit toxic gases, make noise, and present a strikingly unattractive industrial addition to our developing residential Brooklyn waterfront. Consider these facts:

- At this moment, there are no fewer than SIX NEW residential buildings being constructed within ONE block of the planned location of this power-plant.

- The ONLY waterfront boardwalk in South Williamsburg - filled with children playing on the weekends - is DIRECTLY adjacent to the planned location of this power-plant.

- At least 4 large residential buildings have walls of windows that open DIRECTLY onto the power-plant. They will smell, hear and see the power-plant EVERYDAY.

PLEASE WRITE YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES AND LET THEM KNOW THAT THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE TO THE RESIDENTS OF NORTH BROOKLYN! THIS IS A CLASSIC CASE OF ONE SMALL POWER COMPANY LOOKING TO PROFIT AT THE EXPENSE OF HARD WORKING NEW YORKERS WHO ARE TRYING TO CREATE A COMMUNITY WHERE THEIR CHILDREN CAN PLAY SAFELY AND WHERE ADULTS CAN OPEN THEIR WINDOWS WITHOUT INHALING POWER-PLANT EMISSIONS!
April 29, 2016, 10 pm

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