After reading our Renewable Ravenswood article in July, Roosevelt Islander Raye Schwartz wrote in, seeking answers to her concerns. Schwartz comes at the issue from a personal perspective that shines a light on factors not often addressed. We took them up with Wil Fisher, the Manager of External Affairs for Rise Light & Power, the company that now owns Ravenswood.
by David Stone
Raye Schwartz Challenges Renewable Ravenswood
Schwartz, a retired school teacher, reads through news reports with a finer eye than most and is not shy about waving a red flag. Fortunately, she is also very clear in raising issues and keeps her sense of humor intact.
“I may not even still be on this planet when it is done in 2030, but my kids and grandkids are my concern,” she writes.
“In the meantime, what is this new owner going to do about cleaning it up? I’m sure you’ve seen what the outside walls of that plant look like.”
But her concerns go beyond esthetics. Schwartz has repeatedly raised concerns about the high rates of cancer observed near Ravenswood.
The health concerns with fossil fuel-burning power plants in urban settings are well-documented. There is also a history of such plants disproportionately affecting communities of color. Ravenswood, immediately adjacent to a large public housing project, has been reported as the second highest polluting plant in New York State.
Burning at the core is #6 fuel oil, a substance more like tar that burns cheap and sends tons of pollution up the Ravenswood stacks before drifting back over city neighborhoods.
She’s not alone. In May 2017, City Councilmember Costa Constantinides introduced legislation that would ban the use of heavy oils like #4 and #6 in power plants within city limits by 2030. The bill has the support of a broad coalition, including environmental justice organizations, health advocates, and elected officials.
“Rise Light & Power purchased the Ravenswood Generating Facility in 2017, and we have taken unprecedented steps to improve the facility in both the short-term and long term,” Fisher told The Daily.
“We have voluntarily decommissioned approximately 20% of the plant’s capacity, starting with the most-polluting units. In the long-term, we have developed the Renewable Ravenswood plan, which will completely replace all power generated by fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy from offshore wind and upstate renewable projects.”
Rise is going in the right direction and shows no signs of faltering. In the meantime, of course, nothing can be done about the ravages of urban air pollution for which Ravenswood was responsible in the past.
And One More Thing About Renewable Ravenswood
Although the media narrative has universally seen electric cars as a boon to environmental concerns, Schwartz takes a “not so fast” approach.
“What are they doing about the increased electric demand for car charging stations?” she asks.
She previously wrote to executives at General Motors about solar panels on cars “but got no response.”
If the electricity for cars and trucks comes from polluting power plants, any gains are limited. It’s a perspective missing from the mainstream narrative, but it didn’t get past this Roosevelt Islander.