In Brief: Energy Prices, Saint Matthews and Marriage Equality

Relief from rising electricity costs

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York State legislature pushed through a bill that would ease the rising costs of electricity for consumers by providing tax reliefs to power plants.

“With New York City ratepayers facing hundreds of millions of dollars in unwarranted electricity rate increases, we moved quickly with our partners in government and the Legislature to protect consumers and address the issues cited by FERC in its initial decision,” Cuomo said. “Now that the bill has passed, there are no grounds to increase rates; therefore we are moving immediately to file papers with FERC seeking a reversal of its January decision.”

In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decided to allow power plants in the city to pass along the cost of property taxes to consumers—even though many plants don’t pay property taxes. The new billing methods were predicted to cost residents and businesses in New York City as much as $1 billion over the next three years.

“The moment the decision came down from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to give power companies an unjustified windfall that would translate into a 12 percent electricity rate increase for ratepayers we began working to have it reversed,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

The bill, which passed unanimously through the State Assembly and Senate, will provide 100 percent property tax abatement for 15 years and extend the city’s existing Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP) set to expire this year. According to Bloomberg, the legislation does not impact property tax revenue, because the city already planned to provide tax abatement for power plants in its discretionary program.


Saint Matthew’s says goodbye

On May 22, Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Woodhaven held its final service, but the future of the historic church remains unclear.

The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which owns the church, voted on May 2 to close the church due to a lack of parishioners.

“This action has been taken after many years of faithful ministry in the midst of a declining population and dwindling resources,” Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island, said. “Although a sad and disappointing time for the remaining congregation, I am very proud of the courage and foresight of the vestry. We have promised to support the vestry and congregation in this transition and to address the multiple needs of the people at St. Matthew’s.”

Since the announcement, the community has questioned what might happen to the church and property. There were also concerns about the handling of ashes in the churches on-site columbarium and the small cemetery on the property.

In the 1960s, the church purchased the adjacent Wyckoff-Snediker Family Cemetery from the city. The cemetery is made up of roughly 160 gravestones, ranging from 1793 to 1892. Both the church and the cemetery were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

No sale has been made, and according to a church announcement at Saint Matthew’s, the rector, Reverend Tracey Williams, will continue to live at the church until a sale is finalized. No announcement has been made regarding a potential buyer.


Cuomo comes out for same-sex marriage

In a push to get same-sex marriage on the ballot before the end of this congressional session, Governor Andrew Cuomo released a video message on May 23rd extolling the virtues of marriage equality.

“From the fight for women’s suffrage to the fight for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history,” he said. “But on the issue of marriage equality, New York has fallen behind.”

He pointed out that while it may seem hard to imagine, there was a time when interracial couples weren’t allowed to marry. Cuomo is hustling to get a bill passed before July 20, when state legislators are scheduled to leave Albany.

“This is a matter of fairness and equality,” Cuomo said. “It is not a question of religion or culture, but a question of legal rights and government policy.”

Not a single Republican supported a same-sex marriage when it came to the State Senate two years ago. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been campaigning for marriage equality as well, but no Senate Republicans have crossed party lines to support same-sex marriage.

Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Senator Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) both voted against the proposal two years ago, but have since expressed ambiguity. Addabbo has called himself undecided, and Huntley said she’ll think about it when it comes up.

For Governor Cuomo, undecided isn’t good enough.

“When it comes to fighting for what’s right, New Yorkers wrote the book, and marriage equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story,” Cuomo said.



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