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Sunset Park activists, officials, environmentalists quick to endorse wind-energy proposal

January 14, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Sunset Park community leaders as well as local and national activists on Tuesday applauded  the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA’s) commitment to invest in the necessary port infrastructure improvements to make Sunset Park’s industrial waterfront into an offshore wind energy hub. 

The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT) is New York City’s largest industrial waterfront and, according to advocates, is the only site in New York State suitable for assembly of offshore wind turbines without the long-term reconstruction other sites would require in order to accommodate the vessel depth and large footprint needed to assemble the massive component parts of wind turbines.

With the investment of $200 million in port upgrades, advocates said, the Sunset Park, Brooklyn industrial waterfront will become the hub of the offshore wind industry for New York and the region and home to thousands of well-paying, green collar jobs for people with a variety of educational backgrounds and work experiences.

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“This is a climate Justice victory— this is what the industrial waterfront of the future looks like. Addressing climate justice in NYC demands non-traditional partnerships ready to support frontline solutions and birth a frontline green new deal starting with our industrial waterfronts. Offshore wind is a necessary part of operationalizing our community-led Green Resilient Industrial District proposal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to utilize our industrial sector to create thousands of well-paid clean energy jobs and to build for our climate future,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. 

Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the local environmental organization UPROSE. Eagle file photo

Yeampierre, in 2019 and 2020, was one of the most vocal opponents of a plan by another Sunset Park institution, Industry City, to rezone and expand its facilities. She said that plan, which was eventually withdrawn, would have speeded gentrification and led to Sunset Park’s transformation into a community that “looks like Chelsea, Williamsburg and DUMBO.”

City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook), commented, “This announcement marks a turning point in New York City’s fight for climate justice. Sunset Park’s historic industrial waterfront will be transformed into a 21st century hub for green industry, creating 1,200 quality jobs and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels . We can now say proudly that New York City has a green industrial future, and it is because frontline communities and their advocates have been fighting for decades.

At the time of the Industry City controversy, Menchaca was likewise critical of the proposal, saying he wouldn’t support it unless the commercial-industrial complex gave several concessions, such as no hotels, a reduction in the amount of retail space and the creation of a “manufacturing hub” 

National environmental groups were quick to endorse the new wind-industry hub proposal. “With this investment in ports, New York is also investing in the future of our city and state,” said Shay O’Reilly, senior organizing representative for the Sierra Club. “Frontline communities have been leading the charge for a green re-industrialization of NYC, understanding that we can have good jobs and a habitable climate.”

“With today’s announcement, Governor Cuomo’s NYSERDA acknowledges that New York State can’t afford not to invest in making Sunset Park’s industrial waterfront the hub of our region’s clean energy future, especially when weighed against carbon pollution’s terrible toll of superstorms, extreme heat and unhealthy air, factoring in the opportunity for thousands of well-paid clean energy jobs, and acknowledging the debts due and promises made to frontline communities who have endured injustice for far too long, ” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.    

New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) requires that 70 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2030 and mandates that at least 35 percent of benefits from the law go to frontline communities.

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