A Manhattan-based developer has acquired the necessary permits to install a floating power plant the size of a luxury yacht in a narrow channel along the southern end of Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, near the South Williamsburg East River Ferry terminal. First reported by the Brooklyn Paper, the deal is awaiting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, which has pledged to accept comments on the proposal until April 30th.
Robert Perris of Brooklyn's Community Board 2 told us today that he heard about the proposal secondhand, in early April—even though Sef Industries (a.k.a. NYC Energy LLC) filed an application for the barge's installation back in 2013. "This might have flown under the radar without any discourse about whether it's appropriate or not," he said. "We weren't provided with any information [by the Army Corps of Engineers]."
The proposed 220-foot-by-100-foot barge would fill approximately half the width of Wallabout Channel on the northeastern edge of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and rise six stories, according to a notice posted in late March by the Army Corps of Engineers. (For the less-imaginative, Brownstoner whipped up a rendering.) It would be moored on steel pipe piles, and would require the installation of 750 feet of utility pipeline about 40 feet below the low-tide line.
The floating 79.9 MW power plant would provide emergency electricity in the case of a "catastrophic loss of power" in New York City prompted by a natural disaster or terrorist attack, according to Sef's 2013 application [PDF]. Sef also made the case that the floating plant would displace "less efficient, higher polluting" generators elsewhere. But locals have countered that the barge will generate noise and air pollution. A similar barge exploded in Sunset Park in August of 2012.
The plant would produce enough energy to power about 79,000 homes, according to Brownstoner. But at 79.9 MW, it's just below the 80 MW threshold that triggers a lengthy environmental review process.
A coalition of locals called Stop The Barge won a lawsuit against Sef back in 2001, over a similar proposal for a barge in the Wallabout Channel. The proposal was tabled after the coalition made the case that Sef hadn't done an adequate environmental review.
There's also the NIMBY aspect, as the barge would be within sight lines of the yet-to-be-developed Domino Sugar Factory. "Imagine being in a building when you have power plant stacks in front of your window," Stop The Barge member Kathleen Gilrain told the Brooklyn Paper this week.
Senator Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Steve Levin and other local pols sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers earlier this week, asking for an extended comment period on the barge, and a public hearing to discuss its implications.
"The concerns raised by the idea of placing a floating power plant in this location go on and on, and the amount of information available is disturbingly limited," said Squadron in a statement.
Sef could not be immediately reached for comment. The Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to a request either, but their public notice on the proposal says the permitting decision will consider "impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest." The corp's Manhattan office is accepting feedback through Saturday.