Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Three local pols discuss environment issues at town hall meeting

Here's a story that didn't make this week's Riverdale Review.

By Brendan McHugh 

Dinowitz (center) speaks to constituents as
Espaillat (left) listens and Koppell (right) takes notes.
In a special environmentally focused town hall meeting, Riverdale residents had the chance to quiz elected officials about hydrofracking, Indian Point, tree safety and other issues.

Around 50 people showed up to the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale for the third of four recent town hall meetings in the area, this one including Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, state Senator Adriano Espaillat and City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell. 

“We wanted to have a meeting with the community…to hear what issues you’re concerned about, get input and give people an opportunity to speak out,” Dinowitz said as he opened the meeting. 

Dinowitz and Espaillat, both who scored at the top of the legislature with their voting record by the EPL/Environmental Advocates’ scorecard, said Democrats and Republicans are on opposite sides of many topics and it’s up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be a decisive factor when dealing with certain issues.

Jump below for the full story.

“The message we must tell the governor, who’s turned the switch on the process, is that he should slow down, that we really need to take a look at this,” Espaillat said about hydraulic fracking, adding that New York State should wait and see what a federal report says about the dangers of the controversial gas drilling before making “hasty decisions.” 

Espaillat is planning to travel upstate with his fellow elected officials, not only to examine the environmental and economic impact of hydrofracking, but also to listen to the opinions of the people in those areas that will be affected most by the drilling. 

“What we should be doing as a state is really looking at how to develop a comprehensive approach to alternative methods of energy including solar panels, nuclear and wind energy,” Espaillat said. 

Dinowitz said he’d also like to see alterative methods of energy developed soon, especially so Indian Point, the nuclear power plant 40 miles north, could be taken offline “as soon as possible.” 

Bob Bender, a north Riverdale resident, said he always thought the appliance that uses the most energy in his house was a refrigerator, until he read a study that said otherwise. 

“It turns out that television cable boxes use more electricity than refrigerators,” he said. “They have no sleep mode.” 

According to a June 25 New York Times article on the study, one high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year, about 10 percent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator. 

Dinowitz said he would look into it and that his “mind is already working” to create legislation requiring cable companies to create energy efficient cable boxes. Bender added that California has recently passed legislation that requires companies to do so. 

Koppell was able to discuss a number of city issues that residents had concerns about, including bottle recycling, tree protection and auto pollution. 

One local resident complained that the ambulances that are stationed throughout the city keep their trucks running the entire day. Koppell said the reason for that was to keep medicine at the right temperature, but he is working with EMS stations to find a way to improve the technology in the trucks so they can turn the engines off and still keep the medicine at the proper temperature. 

“One way or another, we’ve got to stop 300 cars from sitting on street corners running 24 hours a day giving off fumes,” he said, calling it “outrageous.” 

Other residents were concerned over private companies taking down healthy trees, to which Koppell was able to mention recently introduced legislation that he has co-sponsored concerning the removal of trees in a Special Natural Area District. Any tree unlawfully removed in a SNAD would require the replacement of that tree and also a penalty of at least $750.

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