in the air

Wind-Energy Hub Could Breathe New Life into Staten Island Homeport

The Homeport Pier in Stapleton, Staten Island, on June 20, 2019.
The Homeport Pier in Stapleton, Staten Island, on June 20, 2019. Photo: Clifford Michel/THE CITY

City officials are putting a finger into the breeze to see if Staten Island’s Homeport Pier can be reborn as a wind-energy assembly and shipping powerhouse.

That could position the old Navy base to plug into a renewable energy industry soon to be supercharged by a sweeping new state law.

The city’s Economic Development Corp. is asking companies to draft ideas for using the pier in Stapleton as a hub for the components that go into offshore wind turbines — potentially transporting parts to a swath of ocean off the East Coast.

“We are excited about the opportunity to use our assets in order to support the production of offshore wind energy, as it will both drive job creation and generate renewable resources for New York City and the region at large,” Christopher Singleton, an EDC spokesperson, said in a statement.

Since offshore wind development can be seasonal, EDC is allowing companies to also propose other maritime uses for the pier.

North Shore residents and community activists said they support developing the wind-turbine project if it means bringing jobs to the neighborhood.

“I think that’s a great idea, said Kelly Vilar, the founder and CEO of the local development group Staten Island Urban Center.

“We want to see more than retail outlets for our waterfronts,” she added, alluding to the recent opening of the Empire Outlet stores near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. “We need people here to have more substantive career-level jobs for generations to come.

Rey Dortha, a Park Hill resident, reflected on a time when Staten Islanders believed the old naval base would boost the North Shore’s economy.

“The Homeport was supposed to change everything for this part of Staten Island, that’s what they thought in the 80s with (President Ronald) Reagan,” said Dortha, 53. “So if they can bring jobs here, that would be great.”

Powerful New Renewable Goals

EDC’s call for ideas, released Tuesday, coincides with the state Legislature’s passage of the sweeping Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The measure, negotiated with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, sets aggressive targets for replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources such as wind turbines.

The climate bill aims to create 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2035 — a goal Cuomo touted earlier this year. New York currently has about 1,500 megawatts operational or under development, according to Cuomo’s New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA.

Last November, NYSERDA solicited companies to generate 800 megawatts of offshore renewable energy for New York’s use. It received proposals from four consortiums that hold leases to operate in federal waters off New York Harbor, the North Fork of Long Island and elsewhere in the Northeast, but has yet to announce a winner.

The Homeport Pier was built in the late 1980s as part of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Homeport program and was meant to serve as a home to the USS Iowa and other support ships. The Navy transferred ownership of the pier to New York City in 1994.

While the Navy still docks boats there for Fleet Week each May, and the FDNY keeps a fireboat and barracks at the pier, it’s largely unused.

The land portion of the 35-acre former naval base already has been developed into a mixed-used residential community, including Staten Island Urby, a luxury two-building apartment complex, with 571 rental units, that opened in 2016.

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