A group of about 30 Fifth Street residents expressed concerns about PSEG’s proposal to extend an underground electric cable down their street and across the bay from Greenport to Shelter Island.
The informal meeting Wednesday night at Herzog Park was organized by Trustee Doug Roberts, who along with Mayor George Hubbard Jr., addressed the group and answered questions.
“The consensus is there’s no way possible that you want any of this to happen,” Mr. Hubbard said to those gathered at the meeting.
Mr. Roberts said afterward: “The consensus is that the current deal is no good. The other consensus is that the overarching problem might be the electromagnetic issue … and another consensus was that the amount of money being offered wasn’t enough.”
The electromagnetic was concern voiced by several residents, who felt the underground cable would be bad for their health.
“We are going to have a mega milliwatts of electricity going down the street, which affects our health,” Fifth Street resident Chris Biemiller said. “I wouldn’t buy a house under huge electric lines because it affects our health.”
Others said the cable would only supply power to Shelter Island and the South Fork and wasn’t worth it for Greenport residents, despite the fact that the village could receive the equivalent of $1.2 million from PSEG in the form of cash and the value of a repaving project. They suggested Shelter Island Town build its own power substation.
Others questioned whether the environmental impact study planned for the project would address things like noise created by the work.
And while Mr. Hubbard had pointed out that the village would receive at least $1.2 million in money and services — more than its annual budget — by agreeing to the project, many residents felt that amount wasn’t high enough.
For Christian McShea of Fifth Street, who has two small children, “it’s not worth taking a chance. $1.2 million is not worth it.”
The mayor said he would look into the electromagnetic issue and whether an underground power line would adversely affect people’s health.
Questioned about the electromagnet issue Thursday, a PSEG spokesperson issued a statement saying: “PSEG Long Island is dedicated to providing both safe and reliable service for its customers and there will be no health impacts to the local residents as a result of this cable project.”
The village board had scheduled a closed-to-the-public executive session meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the PSEG contract.
The mayor said the meeting was an attempt to see where everybody on the board stands on the issue and that no votes would be taken afterward.
The village board last Thursday voted to declare itself “lead agency” in the review of the environmental impact study for the transmission line project.
The mayor said he was trying to find money to pay for various projects in the village without raising taxes and the proposal from PSEG to rent a portion of the beach at the end of Fifth Street for three months arose.
He said the village would get about $700,000 in cash from PSEG, plus they would extend a cable from the Chapel Lane substation to Moore’s Lane as a backup source of power, and then repave the portion of Fifth Street dug up during the cable installation.
Isabel Osinski said if the village is looking to make money, it should consider enacting a proposal to charge a $1 fee to every car that exits North Ferry into the village. She said that would raise more money than PSEG is offering.
Mr. Hubbard said he has sent a letter to the state attorney general seeking advice on that proposal’s legality.
The deadline to make comments on the environmental study is Sept. 17, he said. PSEG also has until then to request that it be lead agency in that study. If it it does so, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will decide the lead agency.
Asked specifically if PSEG planned to seek lead agency, a spokesperson responded by email: “Together with the Long Island Power Authority, we are confident that we will be able to work with the Village of Greenport on any concerns that they have regarding the SEQRA process and will continue to respect and protect the interests of the Village and its residents.”
Photo caption: Mayor George Hubbard Jr., right, speaks to residents at the informal meeting Wednesday night. (Credit: Tim Gannon)