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Protesters want LIPA to drop tax challenge in Northport

Meanwhile in Montauk, PSEG LI briefs residents on options for electric grid upgrades in the hamlet.

On Tuesday, Paul Darrigo of Northport and other residents gathered in Uniondale to protest  LIPA’s tax challenge of the Northport power station set to restart April 10.  (Credit: Barry Sloan)

Around 100 Northport-area residents descended on LIPA’s Uniondale headquarters Tuesday to protest the utility’s effort to reduce tax payments for Long Island’s largest power plant.

LIPA’s decade-old case against Huntington Town alleging that the Northport power station is wildly overassessed is in mid-trial in state Supreme Court in Riverhead. LIPA seeks to significantly lower the $84 million it pays in annual taxes for the National Grid-owned plant. Most of the payment goes to the Northport-East Northport school district. The trial will go through April 25.

“They’re devastating our community and we’ve been hosting their [smoke] stacks in our backyard for years,” said Rosanne Fischer, a Northport resident. 

Paul Darrigo, a Northport resident and banker who is leading the coalition of residents, said his intent is to let Long Islanders know how “angry and scared” Huntington residents are about a potential adverse judgment. He led the group from LIPA headquarters to the Hauppague office of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who he said has been “silent” on the matter when asked for help. 

Marykate Guilfoyle, a spokeswoman for Bellone, said, “It is our sincere hope that LIPA and the Town of Huntington can reach a mutual agreement that is fair and beneficial to all parties.”

The group wants LIPA to “cease and desist, terminate the tax [challenge] and honor the agreement they made” in 1998 not to challenge the taxes, he said. 

The protests came as LIPA is preparing to return to court next week to continue the tax battle. The trial began in February. 

Residents who gathered on a sidewalk outside LIPA’s offices took aim at LIPA and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, saying their efforts to defund plants such as the Northport station while building up renewable resources should not come at the expense of promises to taxing districts that have borne the brunt of the plants for decades. 

“The political calculus is sort of sinister,” said Darrigo, charging that LIPA and the state are pitting LIPA’s 1.1 million customers against the small number who benefit from plant tax payments. Darrigo said many more protests are planned in the weeks and months ahead, including at the trial next week and in conjunction with residents from other districts that host plants, including Island Park. “This is the first of many,” he said. 

In Montauk, meanwhile, PSEG Long Island spent a full day briefing hundreds of residents on its plan, and options, for grid upgrades in the hamlet that include a controversial substation.

The company set up shop at the Montauk Playhouse to explain the growing electrical demand that’s creating the need for the upgrades, and to solicit opinions on five different locations for the substation — facilities that convert high-voltage power to lower voltages used in homes and businesses. 
Project manager Manny Lilimpakis said the station needs only around an acre or less of land, with most equipment enclosed in several small buildings raised to prevent flood damage. He called the widely opposed location on Flamingo Avenue “a challenging site,” from a technical perspective, while another on Shore Road already had designs completed and was less technically challenging. 
Another suggested site was on Edward Ecker Sr. County Park, but it was opposed by one local resident: Edward Ecker Jr. “I think it’s a bad idea,” he said of the park named for his father. 
Montauk resident Shaun de Jesus, who led hundreds of residents in opposition to the Flamingo Avenue site, said PSEG “did a great job” of explaining its plans and presenting alternatives. He said most people he polled seemed to favor simply upgrading the current substation on Industrial Road, where cables and other infrastructure already exists.

PSEG will solicit comments from residents for another month via its website and is expected to make a decision “optimistically by the summer,” spokesman David Gaier said. 
“We’re not trying to sway people one way or another,” he added. “We just want to get on with it.” 

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