Saturday, October 20, 2007

Roosevelt Island, the Ravenswood Keyspan Plant and Asthma Alley

Oct 6 - Portrait

Over the last few weeks while taking one of my kids to Saturday morning soccer at Capobianco Field you can’t help but notice the Keyspan Plant across the East Chanel. Its formal name is the Ravenswood Keyspan Generating Station. With the demise of the Manhattan power plant just South of the United Nations this plant and that at 14th Street in Manhattan are the two major generation plants along the East River

When we moved here to the Island we immediately were concerned about the plant but were told that RIOC had once tested the island for the level of EMFs generated (electro magnetic fields) and it was determined that the levels were low and posed no risk to the children or residents of the island. I never pursued whether any tests were actually run and we were so excited about moving here that we put our worries aside. But sometimes I do still wonder.

The other concern when you live near a plant like this is the pollutants put out by the plant’s stacks day and night. In a March, 2001 WIRE article the following list of such pollutants was recited:

Brown fumes rise above the plant. Chemical odors waft across the river when the wind blows in this direction. The facility's three red-and-white smokestacks spill out nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter that help make this area among the worst-polluted in New York State.”

I have never smelled anything from the East Channel or seen actual brown fumes but having lived near the 14th Street Con Ed plant I know asthma levels are higher for those living nearby and as the 2001 article states sections of NorthWest Queens have earned the name “Asthma Alley”. I also recognize the levels of soot landing on my windowsills as similar to that when I lived downtown.

I am now interested in learning when and what studies were ever undertaken regarding asthma and EMF levels for our area. The 2001 article refers to an organization named the Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment (CHOKE), and described it as a watchdog group that is fighting on behalf of the residents of the Queens neighborhoods near the plant. The website for CHOKE ( appears to be inactive. If I find any organization that succeeded and took over where CHOKE left off I will report it here. In the mean time I will make some inquiries with RIOC, CB8 and RIRA.

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