October 31, 2010

“Yonkers” Powerpoint presentation


Astoria Generating Company

October 25, 2010

I was looking at a map of the NYC area for one reason or another when one area in particular caught my eye; there was a large, seemingly blank area on the north end of Queens that was labeled simply, ConEdison.

The area in question.

The above picture is from the Queens bus map, which is not the specific map I was looking at, but it conveys the same thing.

Upon further investigation, it would appear that the facilities above are owned by a company called Astoria Generating, a subsidiary of US Power Gen.  Astoria Generating operates three facilities in the NYC area: the Astoria Generating Station, the Gowanus Gas Turbine Facility, and the Narrows Gas Turbine Facility.

The Astoria Station opened in 1962 and runs 4 generating units that supply 1,280 MW annually, fueled mainly by natural gas with extra/backup capacity fueled by kerosene (or similar).  The complex as a whole spans 300 acres, which is used for various utility purposes such as power generation, oil storage, liquefied natural gas storage, vehicle storage/servicing, and office space.

US Power Gen applied for appropriate permits to upgrade the Astoria facility in January 2010, largely to increase efficiency of fuel use, reduce emissions, and meet the projected energy demand of New York in the future, which will exceed the current capacity of its (New York’s) facilities by 2015.  If all goes according to plan, construction will begin in 2013 and be completed in 2015.

The upgrades will include the installation of six new combustion turbines, retirement of four existing boilers, and reuse of existing equipment and infrastructure including two steam turbine generators. The repowering will increase AGC’s electric generating capacity from 1,254 MW to 1,816 MW. The fuel will remain natural gas with  low-sulfur kerosene (0.04 % sulfur by weight) or equivalent used as back up fuel for a maximum of 750 hours per year. Furthermore, AGS is proposing to install an oxidation catalyst system to reduce carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and a selective catalytic reduction system (SCR) to reduce Nitrogen Oxides (NOx). Air emissions resulting from the turbines and heat recovery steam generators (HRSG) will be emitted through six 340 foot tall stacks.  The facility will also include a reverse osmosis system. The reverse osmosis system will remove salt from the cooling water taken in from the East River, thus significantly reducing total particulate matter emissions from the cooling towers (from 127 to 9 tons/year).

AGC is also considering the following for its upgraded facility:

  • Capturing rain water for on site irrigation.
  • Review/modification of the conservation efforts in the existing facility (i.e.; replacing lights to energy efficient fixtures/bulbs)
  • Replacement of existing vehicles with electric/hybrid vehicles
  • Evaluation of using bio fuels at the existing facility
  • Evaluation of photovoltaic (PV) cells on the new and existing facility

All of this sounds like it adds up to great news; a big fossil fuel user acting responsibly about what they do.  Though all this may be part a tactic to deter attention from the fact that the proposed changes would leave the plant emitting more than the legal amount of SOx gasses that cause acid rain and forced the NYDEC to reconsider AGC’s permits:

The revised limits result in an increase in emissions of H2SO4 above the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) applicability threshold for the project and are, therefore, being renoticed.

But even with the possibility of increases of acid rain causing compounds, it seems that this company is truly trying to drastically reduce their footprint and increase efficiency.  If every polluter took ten steps in the right direction to cover for one step back, I’d say that’s still a good thing even if for the wrong reason.  They either have some conscience or their PR department should get a raise.


Project FAQ

AGC’s NYDEC Permit Revision Info

Get a better understanding of how your electricity actually gets to you.



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Consolidated Edison is one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the United States, with approximately $14 billion in annual revenues and $33 billion in assets. The company provides a wide range of energy-related products and services to its customers through a number of subsidiaries, including Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., a regulated utility providing gas, electric, and steam service in NYC and Westchester County NY. In 1823, Con Edison’s earliest corporate entity, the New York Gas Light Company, was founded by a consortium of New York City investors. In 1824 New York Gas Light was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and holds the record for being the longest listed stock on the NYSE. In 1884, six gas companies combined into the Consolidated Gas Company. The New York Steam Company began providing service in lower Manhattan in 1882. Today, Con Edison operates the largest commercial steam system in the world, providing steam service to nearly 1,600 commercial and residential establishments in Manhattan from the Battery to 96th Street. Con Edison’s electric business also dates back to 1882, when Thomas Edison’s Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York began supplying electricity to 59 customers in a square-mile area in lower Manhattan. On January 1, 1998, following the deregulation of the utility industry in New York state, a holding company, Consolidated Edison, Inc., was formed.

Con Edison declared full commercial operation of its East River Repowering Project on April 5, 2005, when the second of two natural-gas-fired steam generators began providing power to New York’s electricity grid.  The first unit had become operational on April 1, 2005.  In full operation, the units produce approximately 350 megawatts of electricity. According to the ConEd website, The repowering of Con Edison’s East River generating station was undertaken to enhance an already environmentally beneficial steam system, and is capable of producing 3.2 million pounds of steam per hour.”

Residents of the area have not been so thrilled with the physical sites’ effect on their neighborhood. In 2008, public hearings concerning Con Ed’s pollution permit were held in which many believed that regulations have not been stringent enough in capping harmful emissions from the facility, as reports of asthma has been rampant at the nearby Jacob Riis Apartment Complex. ConEd officials discussed the opposition by of the initiative to build their stacks higher, which was rejected by the company due to cost. Supporters of raising the height believe it would help disperse particulate-matter pollution more widely, lowering the levels of pollution concentration to which those living close to the plant are exposed. ConEd officials said that the reason for increased asthma and air pollution is due to the local residents’ proximity to the F.D.R.

Another neighborhood concern is the extreme narrowing of the bike path that runs along the east river directly in front of the plant. The path narrows to a staggering four feet wide and proves very dangerous for bikers and pedestrians, who are pinned between the F.D.R. and a wall of the plant. Revisions are trying to be made to the entire east side path, with the ConEd plant itself being one of the biggest obstacles getting in the way of that. As of today, the prospective solutions to this problem would involve complex real estate issues in which the UN would give up two of its buildings on East 45th Street, and a controversial proposal to build part of a contiguous pathway over the water.

The final element to consider is the plant’s neighborhood effects in terms of emissions. The processes that takes place within the plant are reverse osmosis and a process known as electrodeionization. Con Edison’s Waterside Station uses natural gas as its primary fuel. It is also claims to have the most up-to-date emissions control technology. Overall air quality in New York City will benefit as the project’s overall annual emissions will be significantly less than those of the Waterside Station it is replacing. Two water sources are available to the East River Station through the New York City potable water system: the Catskill/Delaware watershed and the Croton watershed. However, due to construction activities on the supply aqueduct, water from the Croton watershed has not been supplied and the system to date has been fed exclusively from the Catskill/Delaware watershed. Backwash and rinse flows from the multi-media filter cleaning sequence are directed to an auto pulse filter (APF) system for treatment prior to discharge to the East River. For a more in-depth explanation of the plant’s operations: http://www.powergenworldwide.com/index/display/articledisplay/303706/articles/power-engineering/volume-111/issue-8/features/east-river-repowering-project-design-construction-and-operation.html

Essentially, it appears as if ConEd is taking a very pious angle and proclaiming to be saving the world with their east river repowering project, and there appears to be some grains of truth to its benefit, but it cannot escape what it is: a large industrial behemoth in a congested, urban residential area, the combination of which is appearing to prove harmful to the people they serve and the residents that surround it.

-Gabrielle Dutz

The Staten Island Ferry

October 25, 2010

The Staten Island Ferry is a passenger ferry service run by the NYC Department of Transportation. It runs from the St. George Ferry Terminal on Richmond Terrace in Staten Island, to the South Ferry in Battery Park. It is considered the most reliable form of mass transit in NYC, with an on-time performance of 96%. It began operations in 1817 and has been a municipal service since 1905. It carries 75,000 passengers a day and over 21 million passengers a year.
Before the Staten Island Ferry, ferry service was conducted by private individuals in small sailboats called “periaugers.” In 1817 a company called the Richmond Turnpike Company began running the first motorized ferry, the Nautilus, between the two destinations. The Nautilus was commanded by captain John De Forest, brother-in-law of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who we learned in our reading later went on to great success in the steamboat business. Vanderbilt then went on to buy the Richmond Turnpike Company.
In the 1850s, traffic rose greatly on the Staten Island Ferry. The boats were in poor condition and the schedule was hard to follow with such a demand. The opening of the Staten Island Railway increased traffic even further. More boats were acquired quickly to fulfill demand. In 1871, the boiler of a ship called the Wesfield exploded and killed 85 passengers. The Vanderbilt family eventually sold the ferry operations in 1884.
Today the ferry ride is 5.2 miles that takes 25 minutes each way. Service is 24 hours a day, every day and runs every 30 minutes. There are eight boats in service. The ferry claims to have reduced emissions by 80% in the last 20 years, but the marine diesel engines still pose big emissions for the city. There is not much complaint from local residents seeing that many of them use the ferry every day. Vehicles were allowed on the ferry until 9/11. The best thing about the ferry is that it is free.

Today we went on a personal field trip to the Gowanus Canal (aka the bottom of our block!)

We were expecting to write yet another blog post about the industrialization of the water ways in New York. We were aimlessly heading for the rows of cement plants and scrap metal joints that line the Gowanus when we stumbled into the happiest use of the water ways. While wandering through some open gates we came upon two men fearlessly attempting to save a sinking boat. They were standing on top of two floating platform boats with one motor boat tied to the outside of the line.

These two people working on the boats  are Porter, a journalist and writer that lives in Fort Greene, and Greg. They are part of an organizaiton/art collective called Swimming Cities. Swimming Cities is a “cultural interaction”, where they built boats that are used as a type of stage where various art peices, theater peices, and music are displayed and enacted. There are a total of about 20 people actively working on this project.

“people on boats means bussiness”

They are able to use this space on the Gowanus canal due to the fact that they work for Serette, a metal fabrication company that happens to be located on the canal. Josh, the owner of Serette allows Swimming Cities to use his metal shop to fabricate and store their boats, the ultimate plus of this: they get canal access!

“the Gowanus Canal is a no mans land, no actual action”

Previously they have had boats that ran more than 800 miles on the Mississippi and one that ran on the Hudson River that is now being stored in Italy. These boats will be pulled to New Jersey where they will go onto barges and be shipped to India where they will sail on the Ganga River from Haridwar to Varanasi.

Funding for previous projects was found through the Deitch Galleries and NAFA, but so far they still do not have funding for the upcoming trip to India in January (they are working on it!).

Two of the five boats had been parked on the Gowanus for the past three months and were covered in barnacles which were eating away at the steel and had caused one of the boats to sink! Blistering Barnacles. Porter and Greg were in the process of vacuuming the water out of the floatillas when we arrived. We completely distracted them, but also helped. When the boats got out we scraped off all the barnacles and drank pbr.

We were the first volunteers that they had ever had and we got to barbeque on the canal and ride a forklife and take shots of 151 straight from the bottle with a guy who lives in a trailer in Bushwick.



Situated on New York Harbor in Jersey City, New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan, the Newport Yacht Club & Marina is a comprehensive modern marina offering 154 slips with a wealth of amenities and services. The marina welcomes mega yachts up to 200 feet and is surrounded by a luxury nautical village featuring resort and residential lifestyle facilities offering owners, captains and crew a welcome home away from home and the safety of every yacht in each slip.

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The power generator at this huge plant is known as Big Allis.  It was built in 1965 and was the world’s first MILLION-KILOWATT unit…big enough to serve 3,000,000 people.  This part of Queens was industrialized around 1900 and has remained a very industrial area ever since.  The name “Ravenswood” however refers to an earlier residential period when it was a hamlet in the town of Newtown.  Along with the Village of Astoria, and the hamlets of Hunters Point, Blissville, Sunnyside, Dutch Kills, Steinway, Bowery Bay and Middleton in Newtown Township, Ravenswood was absorbed into Long Island City in 1870.

At the time, of the installation, Big Allis was the worlds largest power generator.  It uses oil and natural gas.  Currently the site produces about 20% of NYCs energy needs.  Ravenswood was owned by Con Ed from the time it was built until 1999, when due to deregulation, Con Ed was forced to sell its in-city generating capacity. KeySpan bought the site for $600 million US dollars and later merged with National Grid.  In 2008, New York State Public Service Commission forced National Grid to sell the site which landed it in the hands of a Canadian company called TransCanada Corp for $2.9 billion US dollars.  Not surprisingly, the Site is located right on the east river in Queens across the street for a large public housing project known as the Queensbridge houses.

Surprisingly there does not seem to be much information online regarding the community relationship and attitude toward such a facility in their backyard.  I expected to see lots of EJ literature and reports of public outcry, but so far, it seems to be non existent on the web.  Even the enviros seems be kind of keeping their mouths shut about this place despite the fact that the Ravenswood station uses a once-through cooling system that is responsible for disturbing 200 million fish eggs and larvae each year, and impinging another 82 thousand adult and juvenile fish.  It also withdraws 1,391 million gallons of water a day from the east river.  Perhaps it is wrong to assume that everyone would hate a large power plant located next door to their home and on the water front of the East River.  However, I find it very hard to believe that everyone would not. The only real opposition to this facility that I have discovered seems to be a labor dispute between unionized workers at the plant who threatened a massive strike in 2009 that would have effectively shut down the city.  The details of this dispute are nonetheless fuzzy.

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Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

October 23, 2010

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry is a poem written by Walt Whitman in 1856, around the same time as the Hudson River School artists were painting their romantic portrayals of the natural scenery up the Hudson valley. Instead of glorifying nature and excluding humanity as the painters tended to do, Whitman, as always, was excited about pretty much everything, including the throngs of people and industrialized landscape.

“Ah, what can ever be more stately to me and admirable than

mast-hemm’d Manhattan?

River and sunset and scallop-edg’d waves of flood-tide?

The seagulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boats in the twilight, and the belated lighter?”

These harmless things are unlikely to upset anyone, but Whitman goes further still in his exaltations.

“Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys!

Cast black shadows at nightfall! Cast red and yellow light

over the tops of the houses!…

Thrive, cities-bring your freight, bring your shows, ample

and sufficient rivers expand…”

Whitman saw all things as glorious. Not just towering mountains, but towering smokestacks as well. Had he known the damage that the thriving cities with their freight and foundries were destroying the landscape around them, a landscape that Whitman loved dearly, he probably would have been singing a different tune.

Just to give some historical context to the poem I would like to point out that the ferry Whitman is referring to is the Fulton Ferry, whose slip on the Brooklyn side is directly beside the Brooklyn Bridge.  The bridge was finished in 1883, allowing easy passage from Brooklyn to Manhattan, but before that, the only way across was by the Fulton ferry, which was established in 1814. Once the bridge was constructed ridership quickly declined for the ferry, and it closed in 1924.

Here is one last scene from the poem that I found interesting; it is addressed to the reader of the poem, hundreds of years in the future.

“I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,

I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed

In the waters around it…”

Whitman’s New York sounds like a truly beautiful place, and it is kind of him to bequeath it to us, but sadly the crowds of men and women that he praised have ensured that we no longer know the ample hills of Brooklyn or the pristine water of the rivers.