The Empire Connection was an effort in the early 2000s by a private developer, Conjunction LLC, to connect the upstate and downstate power grids via underground cables. Originally, the project was proposed to bring 2,000 megawatts of power to NYC via two cables, at a projected cost of $750 million.
Original plans called for above-ground cables to follow the Metro-North tracks along the Hudson River shoreline in the Bronx. Negotiations with Scenic Hudson in 2002 convinced Conjunction LLC CEO Steven Mitnick to bury the cables, along with other existing cables, along the tracks. Subsequent plans called for an above-ground power converter to be built on the Spuyten Duyvil triangle. The full scope of the converter was revealed in the application filed on November 17, 2003 by Conjunction to the New York State Public Services Commission. The application showed an industrial facility rising some 11 stories high and covering approximately one-half of the land area of the triangle.
Responding to outcries from community and environmental groups, the developer sought but did not finalize a new location for the converter. The project was also subsequently downsized from two cables to one. Changing economic conditions left Conjunction LLP unable to secure financing for the project.
Fall 2003. A member of the board of the Riverdale Nature Preservancy learns of the Empire Connection project through a local Hudson River Valley newspaper. She alerts members of the Friends of Spuyten Duyvil, of which she is co-founder, and the board of directors of the Riverdale Nature Preservancy, and contacts Conjunction LLP president Steven Mitnick, Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, the Natural Resources Defense Council and local elected officials for more information.
November 6, 2003. Board of Directors of the Riverdale Nature Preservancy votes to adopt the position that there should be no industrial development at the Spuyten Duyvil triangle.
November 11, 2003. The Preservancy’s annual meeting is transformed into a community forum on the Empire Connection. Warren Reese, general counsel of Scenic Hudson, Inc., and Justin Bloom, Staff attorney for Riverkeeper, describe their organizations’ involvement with the project. Until they were contacted by the Preservancy, neither organization had been aware of plans for an above-ground converter at the Spuyten Duyvil Triangle. Mr. Reese states that Scenic Hudson intends to formally intervene in the process. They would like to work with the Preservancy in resolving siting issues, but need to hear from the community. The community voices its disapproval of the Spuyten Duyvil facility.
Arguments against the converter on the Spuyten Duyvil triangle are based on scenic, environmental, and land use considerations. The triangle is part of the swath of green running along the Hudson River in New York City. Its trees are visible not only to residents of Spuyten Duyvil, but to the thousands of commuters on the Metro-North Hudson Line and the boat traffic in the River. It is part of the coastal zone, and there is a newly-forming salt marsh along its southern edge. It is recommended for purchase in the 2002 State Open Space Conservation Plan and has been recommended for acquisition for a park by the New York Department of City Planning. Bronx Community Board 8’s 197-a Plan recommends further study of a special scenic view district along “parklands with views of the Hudson River and the Palisades in Spuyten Duyvil” that would protect the view of the triangle and the river beyond. The triangle is currently zoned by New York City for low-density residential land use, and further protected by a Special Natural Area District zoning overlay. The converter facility would set precedent for overriding zoning designations for manufacturing uses elsewhere on the city’s waterfront.
November 17, 2003. Conjunction LLP files a 1,000-page application with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to obtain a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need. The application includes a diagram of the facility showing the building and outdoor equipment taking up some one-half of the triangle, which is much more extensive than verbal descriptions of the facility to date.
The project is exempt from EIS requirements, although the Public Service Commission (PSC) application and review is intended to gather public comments and address a broad scope of project impacts.
December 1, 2003. A press conference is held at the Spuyten Duyvil Metro-North railroad station, overlooking the Spuyten Duyvil triangle. It is played on the 6:00 news on Channel 4 and all day on NY1 and News 12. Approximately 40 local officials and residents attend.
December 2003. The Preservancy writes to the Public Service Commission requesting active party status in review of Conjunction LLP’s application.