Queens Leaders Slam Plan to Use 9/11 Liberty Bonds to Build a Widely-Opposed Power Plant in Astoria

Dec 12, 2003
Press Release
NEW YORK, NY - Today, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Assemblyman Mike Gianaris, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. detailed why a proposal to use 9/11 Liberty Bonds to finance a widely opposed power plant in Queens was against federal law, against the spirit of September 11th recovery plans, and against the interests of Western Queens residents who have fought for years against the saturation of power plants in their neighborhoods.

Joining the event today were Tony Gigantiello, President of Queens based C.H.O.K.E. (Coalition Helping to Organize a Cleaner Environment), Rudy Sarchese, President, Astoria Ditmars Homeowners & Tenants Civic Association and a number of concerned Queens residents.

Congresswoman Maloney said, “It’s wrong to divert 9/11 aid from the areas most in need to a distant power plant project widely opposed by the Queens community. This project is way off the mark of what Congress intended for the use of Liberty Bonds. These bonds were meant to help revitalize the areas most devastated by 9/11, not to finance yet another polluting power plant in the already overburdened neighborhoods of Western Queens.”

At today’s event, Maloney cited a report by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation that states explicitly of Liberty Bonds, “Public utility property and residential property located outside the [Liberty] Zone cannot be financed with the bonds” (General Explanation of Tax Legislation Enacted in the 107th Congress. Joint Committee on Taxation. January 24, 2003).

“When did the focus shift from supporting the rebuilding of our city to supporting a troubled and failing special interest?” demanded Assemblymember Gianaris. “This misuse of Liberty Bonds is illegal and I intend to make sure it does not go forward.”

Councilmember Vallone Jr. said, “The air in Queens stinks and this deal stinks and is part of a process that reeked from the beginning. First, the State rammed this plant through the Siting Board against the will of an over-saturated community. Then, the State rigged a deal with Con Edison to get this company a 10-year contract in order to finance the project. And now, a state board is attempting to inappropriately use Liberty Bonds to fund this power plant. This cries out for an investigation. I have requested that the Attorney General do so.”

Public Advocate Gotbaum said, “Liberty bonds are a scarce commodity. Therefore we must carefully weigh the costs and benefits of every Liberty dollar we spend. We need to rebuild our streets, build buildings that can house company offices, create commercial areas that will attract out-of-towners to come to town and invest in New York City. The proposed Astoria Energy project would do none of these things and is a violation of the spirit if not the letter of the law that authorized the sale of Liberty Bonds.”

Also at today’s event, Maloney released a Congressional Research Service memo that she requested earlier this week, which states, “it is unlikely that the [Job Creation and Worker Assistance] Act [of 2003] would permit liberty bond financing for the construction of a public utility outside the Liberty Zone.” This conclusion is based on text from the actual legislation, IRS documents, and the previously mentioned report by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. The C.R.S. document is attached with this release and includes the J.C.T. statement clarifying the intent of Congress that Liberty Bonds not be used to finance public utility projects outside the Liberty Zone.

Also attached with this release is a letter of December 9, 2003 to Governor Pataki from Congresswoman Maloney, urging an immediate stop to any consideration by the New York Liberty Development Corporation for the use of Liberty Bonds to finance the proposed Astoria power plant.

Assemblyman Gianaris’ testimony and letter to the New York State Public Service Commission against this proposal for Liberty Bonds, and Councilmember Vallone Jr.’s letter to Attorney General Spitzer calling for an investigation into the issue are available upon request.