2001-01-17 / Front Page

Bd 1 Cabinet Deplores Power Plants

by linda j. wilson

Bd 1 Cabinet Deplores
Power Plants

The prospect of new power plants in the Astoria-Long Island City area continues to rouse fear and anger in the community, as was evident at the Community Board 1 district cabinet meeting last week. District Manager George Delis noted that many elected officials as well as private citizens had rallied on Jan. 8th to protest the New York Power Authority putting in two 79.9-megawatt generators near the Queensborough Bridge. He asked freshman Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, who succeeded Denis Butler in representing the 36th Assembly District in Astoria and Long Island City after last November's elections, if a law aimed at preventing oversaturation of community facilities sponsored by state Senator Frank Padavan applied to power plants, but Gianaris replied that the bill applied only to mental health facilities.

Gianaris pointed out that Governor George Pataki is the driving force behind state energy policy and without his signature on a bill, "there won't be any law" concerning the generators. Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, noted that pollution drifts and that the plants would only contribute to the pollution already generated by LaGuardia Airport that has made Astoria and Long Island City known as "Asthma Alley." Older plants still operating in the area would need to be brought up to standards now in effect, which would be unlikely, she said. She also noted that Pataki had established the siting board which determines where the power plants will eventually be located. "How can you expect the governor to give any attention to the pollution problems in Queens when he created the siting board?", she asked. "It's a disgraceful abuse of power."

Another widespread problem in Board 1, and, indeed, throughout the city, is that of a burgeoning rat population, which Martin Spar, director of pest control for the city Department of Health, discussed. Norway rats, the most prevalent vermin in the city, seldom are found above the second floor of many buildings, preferring basements, cellars and lower floors. Rats need only food, water and shelter to survive Spar said. They are particularly fond of grease as a foodstuff as it is high in protein and can burrow through concrete to get at the substance, Spar noted.

"We'll never get rid of the rats," Spar pointed out. "All we can do is make the environment inhospitable for them." To bring about this end, any complaint called in to the Health Department hotline, (212) 442-9666, has an inspector assigned to it. The inspector visits the site and determines if the site is city-owned. The Department of Sanitation, which Spar commended, will do the cleanup, using heavy equipment to clear debris from vacant lots, for example.

If the site is privately owned. the owner gets a copy of the inspector's report in which the violations are listed, and has five days to complete cleanup of the site. The site is revisited after five days and if the violations have not been corrected, a notice of violation summoning the offending property owner to Health Department headquarters at Two Lafayette st., Manhattan, is issued. The first violation carries a $200 fine; subsequent violations are $400 each.

The city is also authorized to do whatever work may be necessary to clean up the site, Spar said. "If the property owner hasn't cleaned the property to our satisfaction, we can work with the Department of Sanitation to get everything cleaned up. I urge you to do the cleaning up yourself if you need to. If you let the city do it, you'll get a heart-stopping bill."

To reduce the rat population all New Yorkers need to do is reduce the rodents' access to food, Spar said. "Until we control the rats' source of food, there will be no permanent solution," he added. He has introduced a bill in the City Council calling for metal containers to be used for garbage disposal instead of plastic garbage bags, at least at public facilities. "Plastic garbage bags are smorgasbord for rats," he explained. "They rip them open with their teeth and really have a feast."

The street construction in Board 1 has been the source of some of the rat problems, it was noted. When their habitats are disturbed, rats are more evident and much tunneling and street construction has taken place within the last few years. The extent of the problem is such that the city Department of Design and Construction has requested contracts for street construction projects with provisions for rodent control.

Private property owners can do much to help alleviate the rat problem, Spar noted. Besides making food less available property owners can block rat holes with steel wool and then fill in with spackle, especially if the spackle contains ground glass. Restaurants are encouraged to put grease traps in sewer lines to cut off this supply of food as well. "We can't change the behavior of the rats," Spar noted. "But we can change the behavior of the people who feed them."

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