By Jeremy Walsh
New York, NY (March 18, 2010)- Nearly four years after the blackout that left western Queens in the dark for days, seeds sown by activists are about to bear fruit in the area. Con Edison is disbursing $7.9 million to Western Queens Power for the People for planting trees and other greening projects in Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.
The group will hold two listening sessions to get input from residents on what projects they should include in a request for proposals scheduled to be issued in May and awarded in September. The first meeting takes place Saturday at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th St., from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The second is scheduled for March 27 at the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 35-20 Broadway, also from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Those wishing to attend are asked to call the Northstar Fund, a nonprofit assigned to administer the grant money, at 212-620-9110. Anne Eagan, one of the original members of Power for the People, said she was pleased with how her group’s fight against Con Ed turned out. “We’ve had pretty good results,” she said, noting she was looking forward to hearing from the community. “We all have our own ideas – I know I do. But it’s not up to me. I think it’s necessary for us to get other people’s input.” The suggestions will be reviewed by a panel including two members of Power for the People, one member from Northstar, two experts in green infrastructure projects and one expert in urban forestry.
Sunnyside resident Ciaran Staunton, who was instrumental in getting the city to agree to major improvements to Skillman Avenue, was a little skeptical of the process, worrying the nonprofit might adopt proposals from outside experts. “I certainly hope that when they meet this week they will take into account what the people on the ground think is best for the neighborhood,” he said.
Hugh Hogan, executive director of Northstar, said the sessions intend to do just that, although he noted one of the limitations of the funding is that half of it must be used for urban forestry programs. “I can assure the folks of western Queens that Northstar is not going to impose some agenda that’s different from what they want from their neighborhood,” he said. “That’s not how we roll.”
Hogan said the aim is to focus on projects that could have a lasting presence in the community, including the possibility of training young people for the emerging “green-collar” job sector.
Con Edison to dole out $7.9M for green projects