April 3, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang is backing a developer’s plan to build a “green energy” hub on the Long Island City waterfront.
Yang joined local leaders and community members in the neighborhood Wednesday to announce his support for the plan dubbed “River Green Power” that would provide power to the Queensbridge Houses and nearby businesses.
He said the $250 million project would bring 1,000 much-needed jobs to New York, which would help the city recover from the financial blow of the pandemic — and it would make the city more sustainable.
“Beyond the extraordinary challenge we have ahead of us to rebuild our city’s economy, we also have to think about how we can create jobs that also fight the threat of climate change,” Yang said. “And I believe we can do both right here in communities like Long Island City.”
The River Green Power plan would generate power via river water, geothermal, solar and other renewable sources. Experts say it would produce enough electricity to power the 3,142 units at Queensbridge Houses, according to the developer behind the project, Bruce Teitelbaum.
“The proposed River Green Power plant is exactly the kind of innovative, job-creating green infrastructure projects we should be backing not just to get our City back on its feet, but back on its feet and sprinting towards the future,” Yang said.
Teitelbaum, the general partner of RiverLInC, plans to build the green energy hub as part of 1.2 million square foot mixed-use development at 44-02 Vernon Blvd., which also includes residential and commercial space.
The plan also includes a non-vehicular bridge across the East River that would connect the site to Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island.
Teitelbaum can build the mixed-use development as-of-right, but he would need to get the approval of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to supply the Queensbridge Houses, a NYCHA development, with power. He would also need the State Department of Environmental Conservation to permit the use of East River water for power generation.
If approved, the green energy plant would provide heating and air conditioning services for all residents of the Queensbridge Houses. The president of the Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association strongly supports the plan.
“This plant will do right by our tenants by providing reliable and sustainable energy to the Queensbridge Houses at no cost to residents,” tenants association president April Simpson said. “The plan will be a godsend to the 75 percent of families in our development who currently do not have reliable air conditioning.”
Residents of the public housing development currently rely on window units — if they have AC at all — and steam-powered heat.
Local community leader, Bishop Mitchell Taylor, the Senior Pastor of the Center of Hope International, welcomed the chance to bring the systems at Queensbridge up-to-date.
“We need to modernize our NYCHA housing stock, which has been stuck in a Byzantine timewarp where our most vulnerable communities have to rely on ancient technology to keep cool or stay warm, and I want to thank Andrew Yang for his vision in pushing such innovative ideas to the forefront,” he said.
The plan also calls for job training for Queensbridge residents as well as scholarships for younger residents. The project is estimated to create more than 1,000 jobs as part of the construction, design and engineering, plus ongoing maintenance and service jobs when completed.
Taylor said the project would provide opportunities to Long Island City residents.
“Projects such as the River Green Power (RGP) plant in Long Island City are vital not only to moving the City forward toward a greener and more sustainable future, but also in creating real equity opportunities as well as jobs that were promised to Long Island City residents,” he said in a statement.