Floral Park mayor seeks power plant at Belmont

Floral Park Mayor Thomas J. Tweedy has proposed

Floral Park Mayor Thomas J. Tweedy has proposed a power station at Belmont Racetrack to serve surrounding communities. (Sept. 5, 2012) (Credit: Amanda Voisard)

Floral Park Mayor Tom Tweedy has a solution for the thousands of residents of his village (and three surrounding ones) who are fed up with high LIPA rates: generate their own power.

Under a proposal the village is seeking to include in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Energy Highway plan, it would use Belmont Park racetrack as the site for a new 30-megawatt natural gas-fueled plant. The facility would provide power for about 20,000 residents and businesses in the four villages and make badly needed upgrades to the racetrack's heating and cooling systems.

The proposed $36 million facility also would create dozens of jobs, while cutting electric rates by as much as half, the village hopes.

Tweedy and the village board are using Cuomo's vow of reform at the Long Island Power Authority, and the change in management of the LIPA grid to PSEG of New Jersey in 2014, to advance the unprecedented proposal.

The village board has already approved $15,000 to fund a study of the feasibility of the plant, which would also provide power to residents in the villages of Bellerose, Stewart Manor and South Floral Park.

There are complications, to be sure. For one, LIPA owns all the wires and substations the village needs to get the electricity to homes and businesses. The village would need a special agreement with LIPA, or it would have to condemn the infrastructure it wanted, and then pay for it to complete its vision.

The authority has expressed misgivings.

A LIPA official, in an email forwarded to the village, expressed "concerns" that Floral Park was proposing "building their own infrastructure, which we believe they cannot do."

Asked to comment, LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said, "We have no position on the proposal other than we are open to anything that could reduce costs for our customers."

In addition to removing 20,000 accounts from LIPA's 1.1 million customer base, the proposal would make the villages "less susceptible to the major power outages which have negatively impacted these communities," Tweedy wrote in proposing the facility.

Only Freeport, Rockville Centre and Greenport are independent of LIPA. Their electricity districts were in place before LIPA took over in 1998.

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