Empire Wind? Residents and the Long Beach City Council hope not


South Shore residents expressed their concerns about Equinor’s $3 billion Empire Offshore Wind Project at informational sessions held last week in Atlantic Beach and Island Park.

Equinor’s project, Empire Wind, is currently in the midst of a review by the state Public Service Commission, which assesses the need for and environmental impact of major utility transmission facilities in the state. The project will have two parts: Empire Wind 1, which will supply power to the Brooklyn area, and Empire Wind 2, which will deliver power to the grid in Nassau County and connect to the E.F. Barrett Power Station in Island Park.

Empire Wind 1 and 2 — stations housing the cables that transfer energy from the wind turbines to land — will be built 15 to 30 miles offshore, and 147 turbines, each standing 886 feet tall, will be three to five miles farther out.

Residents who attended meetings on July 13, at Atlantic Beach Village Hall, and the following day, at Hegarty Elementary School in Island Park, asked a variety of questions and voiced a range of reservations.

“The entire board of trustees and I are vehemently opposed to this project,” Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty said at the Island Park session.

Long Beach resident Christina Kramer, who led the first session in Atlantic Beach, echoed several concerns raised by residents of Long Beach and Island Park.

“We’ve all purchased property here, raising our children here, because we love this peaceful environment,” Kramer said. “They’re going to be running three high-voltage cables right in front of my home.”

If the project is ultimately approved by the state, the high-voltage cables would come ashore in at Riverside Boulevard in Long Beach and be routed to a substation on Railroad Place in Island Park. From there the lines would run north, parallel to the Long Island Rail Road tracks, to the Barrett plant, and then connect to the power grid, officials said.

“We’re not entirely sure why Equinor thinks it’s appropriate to run the cables through our city,” Kramer said. “It’s about 350,000 volts of electric current running through our densely populated residential area.”

The Long Beach City Council now also opposes the idea, and sent a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul Monday expressing its opposition. The letter stated that the council is “fully in support of the necessary and urgently needed transition to renewable energy” and is ready to engage with an “offshore wind developer that proposes a reasonable project.”

“Equinor and the proposed Empire Wind project meet none of those criteria and, as a result, we are fervently opposed to that project,” the letter says.

Opponents also expressed concerns last week about the expected noise from the estimated 60-foot-tall substation, which would be located next to Grand Nursing Home and other Island Park residences. It would be built at the site of the former Pops restaurant, while a second substation would be built in Oceanside, at the site of the old Liotta Recycling Center.

Attendees also voiced worries over their future energy bills, the length of the construction process, the project’s impact on property values, and the wind farm’s ability to withstand anything stronger than a Category 2 hurricane. Assemblyman Ari Brown and State Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, who attended the July 13 session, supported residents who expressed their opposition.

“Assemblyman Brown and I have been working as a team on this because we believe very strongly that this is not what the community wants, and that this is not something that has been handled properly,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said.

“I have met with Equinor and have asked so many of the questions that have been posed about the effects on marine life,” she added. “Why are we having dead whales on our coast in both New York and New Jersey? We’ve asked about the (electromagnetic field). We’ve asked about alternative routes, and we’ve asked about studies that ‘prove’ that this isn’t going to affect the health of our residents and what is essentially the value decrease in our property, because who will want to buy a home that’s within 150 feet of buried lines?”

Atlantic Beach resident Kevin Kelley emphasized the environmental pros of the project, noting recent air quality issues in the metropolitan area as evidence for the need for alternative energy sources.

“We’re making it seem as though it’s some kind of nefarious plot to make Long Beach unhealthy,” Kelley said. “I’m not here to say this is a great project. We have to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, stop burning fuels that cause untold damage to the environment and human health. If you’re concerned about your children and the environment, you should also be rallying against the continued use of fossil fuels, including the Barrett plant in Island Park.”

The Empire Wind 2 project is expected to contribute over one-third of New York’s climate goal of 9 gigawatts of energy produced by offshore wind.

Kramer expressed concerns about the proximity of the planned turbines to the South Shore and how they might affect wildlife.

“When you’re this close to the shore, that’s where the marine life breeding grounds are,” Kramer said. “That’s where fishing happens. The further out they are, I think they’re less environmentally impactful, but the large scale of this is just alarming.

“I’m wondering why they give the more affluent neighborhoods the courtesy of being further out in the ocean,” she continued, “not just because we don’t want to look at them or see them, because if it was so good for the earth, I could stomach the visual of it, but it’s not.”

Another project, Beacon Wind will be located more than 60 miles east of Montauk Point and 20 miles south of Nantucket.

Island Park resident Richard Schurin expressed similar concerns about the turbines’ environmental impact. “I believe that the principal damage to marine mammals is when they start pile-driving wind turbines,” he said. “I don’t believe, personally, that the air bubble ring that they’re proposing to us is going to protect the marine environment.”

A “bubble curtain” is underwater noise insulation that releases a stream of bubbles from a pipe on the seafloor. Bubble curtains, Equinor claims, would reduce noise and vibration, and thus not disrupt marine wildlife.

“There’s still time to force them to change how they’re going to install those wind turbines if it gets approved,” Schurin said, “so I encourage people to focus on that particular factor.”

Additional reporting by Caroline Kelly.