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Letter: Reasons For Saving and Repurposing The Power Plant

Since February, I have pitched the idea of saving and repurposing the Glenwood Landing (GWL) power plant as a viable, commercial, tax-paying enterprise to all local, town, county, state and federal politicians, to all area mayors, to LIPA and National Grid, in letters, emails, statements and in letters to the newspapers.


• The GWL plant is a historically and architecturally unique building on Long Island. Such plants were designed as civic monuments with the best architectural features of their day, to show that they would be there for the long term to provide a reliable source of electricity. According to architectural historian, Richard Gachot, the GWL plant is a “very important vestige of early 20th century industrial architecture, a symbol of power harnessed for mass consumption.”


• Preserving older buildings has become a standard component of urban renewal projects. According to Alexandra Wolfe, the Director of Preservation Services at the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA), “the reuse of an existing structure is an aspect of Green Building and is considered a more sustainable approach when taking into account the cost and impact of demolition and rebuilding. The idea of repurposing this GWL building is great and your reference to successful similar projects helps to drive home the possibility that dynamic commercial projects providing public benefits are possible for Long Island.”


• Elsewhere, decommissioned power plants are increasingly being repurposed as showcase, community-oriented, commercial enterprises because their location near water, their solid construction and their unusual size and shape make them ideal for repurposing. The New York Times published a timely article in April: “From Power Plant to Civic Renewal Centerpiece.”


• In January of this year, Senator Chuck Schumer pledged millions of dollars in federal tax credits for repurposing the Yonkers Glenwood power plant on the Hudson as a convention center and hotel. Sen. Schumer called the $250 million project a “very high priority” will spur development and create jobs. That Glenwood project is slated to open in 2016 and is estimated to create 2,000 construction jobs, 1,000 permanent ones.


• In Stamford, CT, the recent Chelsea Piers conversion of a Clairol manufacturing plant, completed in just two years, created 900 construction jobs, between 400 to 600 related jobs in other areas, and 250 permanent jobs in Stamford—all thanks to the impressive building-recycling and can-do philosophy of the company’s owners and architect, and the clear-eyed vision of the Stamford mayor and other civic leaders who had the imagination, will and courage to “aggressively” court Chelsea Piers executives.


• The LI Regional Economic Development Council met at Hofstra last week and discussed NYS consolidated economic development funding available for community and waterfront revitalization projects. The project to save and repurpose the GWL plant would seem to qualify perfectly for such funding.


•  It is my understanding that the Town of North Hempstead (TONH) supervisor and council members claim no authority over the National Grid corporation and its plans to demolish the GWL plant. Since the 1963 demolition of NY City’s Penn Station, however, which gave birth to the architectural preservation movement, such a laissez-faire approach to historic buildings is no longer valid or acceptable. The future of the GWL plant is not merely a tax-assessment matter for National Grid. It is a matter of preserving an architecturally unique historic building. It is a matter that concerns the quality of life and the economic and environmental wellbeing of all surrounding communities, now and in the future. It is a matter that requires the engagement and leadership of the TONH supervisor and council members, of National Grid and LIPA executives, of all local, town, county, state and federal civic and political leaders.


• We ask that National Grid not be allowed to demolish the historic, architecturally unique GWL power plant, a structure of immense potential value to the community, until full consideration can be given to ways the landmark building might be most advantageously and profitably repurposed in the long term. Explore its repurposing for everyone’s benefit, now and for future generations, as part of an environmentally responsible and commercially viable regeneration of what is presently a haphazardly developed and largely user-unfriendly GWL shoreline. Re-imagine it as a historically unique architectural cornerstone of a vibrant and revitalized, visitor-and-user-friendly Glenwood Landing-Hempstead Harbor waterfront.


• A petition: “Save the Glenwood Landing power plant from demolition,” has more than 400 signatures to date. Please read it and sign it.


• A Facebook “Save the GWL power plant” group has more than 250 members to date. Please join us.


Karin Barnaby