Rep. Maloney, NYCHA Resident Association Leadership, and Community Leaders Call on NYSERDA to Shut Down “Big Allis”

Sep 26, 2021
Press Release

Congresswoman Maloney and advocates at Big Allis

New York, NY – Yesterday, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) joined with NYCHA Resident Association leadership and community leaders to renew their call for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to shut down peaker power plant known as Big Allis -- the largest smokestack on site at Ravenswood Generating Station, which is the most polluting power plant in the state of New York. 

Earlier this year, Rise Light & Power, the operating company of “Big Allis,” submitted a renewable replacement proposal to NYSERDA that would make all outputs from the plant renewable by 2026. This week, Governor Hochul announced two green energy infrastructure projects to power New York City with wind, solar, and hydropower projects from upstate New York and Canada. Neither of these projects include shutting down “Big Allis.”

Given the nickname Asthma Alley, Western Queens is home to frontline communities that are disproportionately burdened by pollution from power plants that operate during times of peak electricity demand. These plants are less efficient than other sources and emit more toxins, demonstrating the need for the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative and high-impact solutions at the federal, state, and local levels.​

In a letter to NYSERDA, the Congresswoman explained ‘“Big Allis” is the largest smokestack on site at Ravenswood Generating Station, which is the most polluting power plant in the state of New York. It is also located across from Queensbridge Houses, which is the largest public housing development in the United States. This area is frequently referred to as “Asthma Alley.” […] Our communities and our environment cannot afford to pass up this opportunity to address the dangers of “Big Allis.” It is absolutely unthinkable that people are dying in “Asthma Alley,” and existing proposals that could fix this were not selected. Our constituents deserve clean air, and this Board can help deliver it. We cannot afford anything less.”

“Power plant pollution has affected our lives and wellness over years,” said Stephanie Chauncey, Queensbridge Residents Association, PSA9 President. “We need clean air not just for our local communities but for our state. We have prolonged this enough and we're tired of this environmental injustice. Big Allis must come down. Together we will fight until the transition is done – our families’ lives depend on this transition. We will no longer tolerate environmental injustice.”

“They need to clean up our air. Cut out the dirty air and let’s get with sustainable energy,” said Carole Wilkins, President, Ravenswood Residents’ Association.

“It’s time to shut Big Allis down! We’ve tried to work with the power company to find a way to retire the peakers, and create clean,  renewable energy. There was an opportunity, but once again, public housing residents were overlooked,” said Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor, Senior Pastor of Center of Hope & CEO, Urban Upbound.

“Big Allis is the poster child for environmental racism as we know it,” said Julie Won, community leader. “For decades this plant has led to skyrocketing asthma rates and poorer health outcomes in the neighborhood. To allow Big Allis to remain open is reckless, negligent, and flies in the face of goals already set by the State to reduce carbon emissions and improve quality of life. NYSERDA must close Big Allis and unequivocally commit to the decarbonization of New York’s energy grid.”

Full text of letter below and a PDF is available HERE.

Dear Chairman Kauffman and NYSERDA Board Members:

Thank you so much for your work to bring renewable energy sources to New York. Given the immediacy of the climate crisis, I was very excited to hear about the Tier 4 solicitation that was established to make progress toward New York’s goal for 70 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. 

Earlier this week, I saw Governor Hochul’s announcement regarding two major green energy infrastructure projects to power New York City with wind, solar, and hydropower projects from upstate New York and Canada. While the approved plans provide some climate benefits, I am extremely disappointed that neither of these projects contain a promise to shut down “Big Allis.”

“Big Allis” is the largest smokestack on site at Ravenswood Generating Station, which is the most polluting power plant in the state of New York. It is also located across from Queensbridge Houses, which is the largest public housing development in the United States. This area is frequently referred to as “Asthma Alley.”

As the Chair of the House Oversight Committee, I recently held a field roundtable in New York City to hear directly from frontline communities that have been disproportionately burdened by pollution from power plants and discuss new environmental justice proposals the Committee will spearhead to curb deadly pollution and direct federal resources to the hardest-hit communities. “Big Allis” is a prime example of this situation, both in terms of the dangerous pollution it produces and the disproportionate burden it places on the local community. 

It is my understanding that at least one proposal, submitted by Rise Light & Power, contained a promise to undertake renewable replacement of “Big Allis” that would have resulted in its full output replaced by renewables by 2026.

Given the detrimental effects “Big Allis” has caused and continues to cause, I am very upset that the selected plans do not contain a commitment to retire this smokestack. 

Our communities and our environment cannot afford to pass up this opportunity to address the dangers of “Big Allis.” It is absolutely unthinkable that people are dying in “Asthma Alley,” and existing proposals that could fix this were not selected. Our constituents deserve clean air, and this Board can help deliver it. We cannot afford anything less.

Thank you for your service to New York, and I look forward to working with you to reduce the harm “Big Allis” inflicts on our constituents. 

Background

In August 2021, Congresswoman Maloney was joined by members of the New York congressional delegation, members of the PEAK Coalition, community leaders, and impacted community members to unveil House Committee on Oversight and Reform environmental justice proposals to curb deadly pollution and direct federal resources to frontline communities. Later that day, Congresswoman Maloney joined with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) to host a roundtable with community representatives to hear about their experiences as members of frontline communities that have been disproportionately burdened by pollution from power plants. During the meeting, participants also discussed new environmental justice proposals that the House Oversight Committee will spearhead to curb deadly pollution and direct federal resources to the hardest-hit communities. 

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