Energy project aims to provide cleaner air for Queens residents who live near Ravenswood Generating Station
For about 60 years, the Ravenswood Generating Station has been providing 20% of electricity to New York City by burning fossil fuels - and it sits right across from a cluster of public housing.
Residents have long blamed high asthma rates on the stacks, but a breath of fresh air may be headed their way.
Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced three offshore wind and 22 land-based renewable energy projects across New York state that are expected to power 2.6 million New York homes. One of those projects is converting the Ravenswood Generating Station into clean energy. The area of Queens is also known as “asthma alley.” Noel Merritt has lived in Queensbridge since the 1970’s. He blames his asthma on particles from the plant.
“There was a thick acrid smell that was constantly bombarding us,” Merritt told News 12 New York. “[In school] the teacher kept the windows open. If she heard the three long horns, she closed the windows, we couldn’t go to recess, when heard three short horns to let us know the coast was clear, she would open the window up,” he recalled.
According to Public Health Solutions, for children ages 5 to 17, the average annual rate of hospitalization due to asthma in Ravenswood and Queensbridge is 235.4 per 10,000, that’s compared to 115.4 in nearby Astoria and 76.8 in the Hunter's Point, Sunnyside and Maspeth area.
Mount Sinai Environmental medicine expert, Dr. Luz Claudio, says this is an issue of environmental injustice.
“Certain communities in NYC have higher rates of asthma, what do those communities have in common? They are low-income neighborhoods, many of them are populations that have been marginalized historically, they have higher facilities that emit pollutants, especially air pollution – that's the basis for environmental injustice. One example is the location of many power plants,” Claudio said.
Rise Light and Power is one of the companies that will be turning this fossil fuel plant green. It told News 12 in a statement: "Attentive Energy One thanks Governor Hochul for her leadership in implementing New York’s nation-leading Climate Act, as well as NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen Harris, a visionary and tireless advocate for climate action.
The 1.4 GW project will deliver transformative benefits for the City and the State, incorporating important input from environmental justice communities and ensuring a just transition for union workers. Attentive Energy One will retire and replace fossil fuel generation at New York City’s largest power plant – Ravenswood Generating Station – with clean offshore wind, lowering emissions while retraining the site’s essential workers for the green economy.
Throughout project development, Attentive Energy One commits to building support, incorporating feedback, and responding to the needs of our neighbors and communities statewide.
We are honored to have earned the trust and support from so many partners and look forward to delivering this project for New Yorkers."
This state award is only going toward removing one of the three smokestacks at Ravenswood – future contracts will be needed to remove the rest – but everyone, including Merritt, says it’s a step in the right direction.
“As far as the Queensbridge community is concerned, I honestly feel my contribution standing out against these smokestacks is going to benefit future residents years, years after I’m gone,” he said.
Gov. Hochul says this clean energy initiative will lead to more jobs. Local organizers are working to make sure the jobs at Ravenswood go to NYCHA residents who have historically been impacted by the plant’s presence.