Almost a Decade After Protests, Nearly $2 Million in Con Ed Money Still Up for Grabs

2 StacksJoel Raskin

Almost 10 years after protests over Con Edison’s 14th Street plant led the power company to agree to dedicate $3.75 million to funding environmentally friendly endeavors, more than half of the money is still up for grabs.

Last Thursday marked the most recent deadline for the submission of grant proposals to Community Board 3’s Con Edison Task Force, which manages the funds. But as the deadline approached, Carol Kostik, the chair of the task force, said that relatively few residents knew that approximately $1,991,084 in funding was there for the taking.

“I think people have really moved on to other issues,” she said.

Still, Ms. Kostik said that during this latest application cycle, she received more letters of inquiry about the process than at any other time since the money became available in 2005. Last fall, the task force had three applicants. This year, it received five letters of inquiry.

“Over time as people have become more aware of it and the guidelines have become clearer, people have gone through the process successfully,” Ms. Kostik said. “It has created more of what I hope is a snowballing.”

At the end of each voting cycle, the task force collects applications and recommends projects to the full community board. If approved, a project is submitted to the New York City Law Department, New York State Department of Public Service and Con Edison. In the past, the three entities have agreed to grant funding to Asthma Free School Zone, the Lower East Side Ecology Center and The Lower Eastside Girls Club.

Rebecca Krauss, the program manager for EcoBizNYC (a Con Ed-funded initiative managed by the Lower East Side Ecology Center that helps small businesses reduce air pollution) said she was surprised that so much funding was still available.

“I don’t know how aggressive they market about the money and if the average person is privy to that information,” she said, adding that the criteria for the grants are prohibitively specific. Projects can only be funded if they prioritize benefits to air quality as well as the health and safety of residents in the area around the plant. They must also adhere to Article X, a state law that, among other things, requires environmental and public-health-impact analysis before the building or re-powering of major electric plants.

Rebecca Kalin, the founding director of the Asthma Free School Zone, said knowledge of the funding is spreading around the neighborhood through word of mouth.

“I knew about the settlement long before I realized I was eligible to apply,” Ms. Kalin said. “I have seen that some other groups have applied, but it seems to be a very small circle of organizations that are eligible.”

Residents in the East Village and surrounding neighborhoods protested against Con Edison in 2000 after learning that its 40th Street plant was closing and the 14th Street facility would increase usage. After two years of complaints about unsafe emissions, a settlement was reached. Approximately $640,555 has been used on improvements to the plant, including the installation of nozzles on smokestacks and the conversion of boilers to steam.