Downtown projects in New Rochelle and Yonkers could be slowed or halted due to the moratorium, officials say.
Local and state officials fear Westchester's recent development renaissance will come to a screeching halt because Con Edison said it can't take on new natural gas customers.
Con Edison issued a statement Friday saying the demand for gas is "reaching the limits of the current supplies to our service area."
"As a result, and to maintain reliable service to our existing natural gas customers on the coldest days, we will no longer be accepting applications for natural gas connections from new customers in most of our Westchester County service area beginning March 15, 2019," Con Edison said in its statement.
Jim Denn, spokesperson for the Department of Public Service, said Con Ed didn't propose a pipeline "to meet or address growing demand."
"To help prospective customers meet their energy needs in light of these market dynamics, PSC will be monitoring Con Edison’s engagement with customers to explore options to reduce their energy needs or meet their needs through non-natural gas energy sources," Denn said in a statement.
State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, said it's going to "devastate" local development, particularly in cities like New Rochelle and Yonkers, which are in the midst of redeveloping their downtowns.
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"These projects are on a marginal budget, and we're not going to get the economic development that we're hoping for," Paulin said. "Compounding the problem is affordable housing. Developers won't be able to do them at all, so this is a huge problem for our county and it's disappointing that we're being told two months prior (to the start of the moratorium)."
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New Rochelle's downtown redevelopment attempts have historically started and crumbled, as it did in the 1980s, which left a pile of debris near the train station for more than a decade, and again during the most recent economic recession.
The city experienced a development boom since it changed its downtown zoning code in 2015, with several projects already being built and more in the pipeline, but Paulin worries that this could put a pin in the balloon.
"I'm worried it will (stop the redevelopment)," she said. "I spoke to the mayor, and he's worried as well. We're going to meet with Con Ed this week. I'm hoping we can figure out something that we can do."
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said, “This obviously has serious potential implication for our entire region."
"We are consulting with government and utility officials in order to better understand options and constructive paths forward," Bramson said. "It is essential that solutions emerge.”
In Yonkers, Mayor Mike Spano said the city's building boom could be affected for as long as this moratorium lasts.
"Developers are already telling us they can’t build more housing or commercial buildings until this is resolved," he said. "Con Ed and the Public Service Commission need to implement an immediate plan to solve this.”
Denn said the PSC ordered utility companies, including Con Ed, to increase energy efficient and create "demand-response programs to lower gas demand and save consumers money."
"These programs are up and running," he said. "As these gas efficiency and demand response measures take hold, as well as others to meet demand growth, the PSC will carefully review changing market conditions and consider most appropriate additional steps Con Edison should take to meet the needs of its customers."
The northernmost sections of the county have more capacity and may still be able to accept new customers, Con Edison said in its statement, and existing customers are not affected by the moratorium.
Rockland/Westchester Journal News Published Jan 18, 2019
Christopher J Eberhart