In 2000, residents of North Brooklyn learned that the utilities Con Edison and then-KeySpan Energy (now National Grid) planned to build a 500-megawatt power plant on Greenpoint’s East River waterfront. In response, community groups, including Greenpoint Property Owners and NAG (Neighbors Against Garbage), alerted residents, elected officials and other organizations, including Brooklyn Community Board #1, about the proposed plant. After nearly three months of public rallies and meetings with state regulators about North Brooklyn’s community-based 197-a plans, Con Edison and KeySpan quietly withdrew their proposal, and the powerful community coalition known as GWAPP—which then stood for Greenpoint/Williamsburg Against Power Plants—was born. By the time the plant was defeated, approximately 40 community groups had come together as part of GWAPP to monitor and advocate for the community planning and open space resources on the Greenpoint waterfront.
But just as GWAPP put the Con Edison/KeySpan battle behind it, a new and far greater threat emerged. Now another company, TransGas Energy Systems, came forward with a proposal to build a 1,100-megawatt natural gas cogeneration power plant, large enough to provide 10 percent of New York City’s peak energy needs, on the site of the Bayside Oil Terminal at North 12th Street and Kent Avenue. Defeating the TGE plant, which took ten years instead of three months, proved to be much more difficult. The city agreed with GWAPP that the TransGas plant threatened the residential and open space of the North Brooklyn waterfront and moved forward with New York City’s largest waterfront rezoning ever. Both the TransGas fight, which included multiple GWAPP-backed litigations, and the city’s rezoning were GWAPP’s exclusive focus for a full decade. TransGas fully exhausted its final appeal before the New York Court of Appeals in 2009. GWAPP had established as a matter of law that North Brooklyn had a legal right to the higher and better waterfront uses of residential and open space development over heavy industrial development.
During the TransGas struggle, GWAPP and other community organizations focused more than ever on answering the question: What should the North Brooklyn waterfront look like in the 21st century and beyond? One thing was clear: we need as much open space as possible. GWAPP’s challenge is achieving that end within the dynamic of New York City government and real estate interests, seeking to foster economic development of this scenic waterfront area. GWAPP has always successfully combined bringing together effective community coalitions and using the information to fulfill its mission.