November 20, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) held its annual reception in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, November 16, where four people of diverse backgrounds were honored and presented with the Chairman’s Award.
New York AREA is a coalition of New York labor unions, business organizations, community and environmental leaders, and independent energy experts. The members support policies that will supply New York with reliable and affordable electric power. Its mission is education: to let the public, media, and policy makers at all levels know about New York’s energy supply challenges, and to promote solutions that stimulate the economy, create jobs, and satisfy New York’s growing demand for power.
The keynote speaker at the reception was New York State Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie. Heastie represents the 83rd A.D. in the northeast Bronx. He is the first African-American to serve as Speaker of the New York State Assembly, and was elected in February, 2015.
The crowd was welcomed by the Honorable Arthur “Jerry” Kremer, Chairman of New York AREA, who spoke of the Association as “the conscience of the energy industry here in New York,” and mentioned that it had been in existence for thirteen years, and has well over 300 members.
The first honoree of the evening was Tom Grech, Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. He began his acceptance speech by saying that Queens used to be a place people traveled through, whereas now they travel to it. With the growth of the borough as a travel destination comes the need to improve its energy systems. In Queens itself, “There are 53 different power generation facilities supplying half of New York City’s electricity and fully 10% of the power produced within the entire State of New York,” he said. Meanwhile, “Having reliable energy is one of the highest expenses for businesses. It must be regular, efficient and inexpensive.”
The second honoree was Louis Picani, President of Teamsters Local 456. Teamsters Local 456 represents workers in Westchester and Putnam Counties, public workers in the City of Yonkers, the Town of Greenwich, and surrounding municipalities. Many of Westchester’s building trades workers are also members, including concrete drivers, paving workers, and building materials workers, and the local is a leader in the county building trades council. Local 456 members also deliver fuel oil and gas and drive school buses. “The Teamsters secure the physical [energy] plants,” he said. “They do it with extreme professionalism. Local 456 greatly appreciates this partnership. We all have an interest in affordable reliable electricity. We have to invest in the energy infrastructure, because it is imperative to create jobs.” He thanked the Teamsters who work at the plants.
The next honoree was Deborah Milone, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has more than 300 members, and is an advocate for the business communities in and around Buchanan, Cortlandt Manor, Croton-on-Hudson, Montrose, Peekskill, Putnam Valley, and Verplanck. “It is an honor to be recognized by the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance,” she said. “They all work so hard to ensure New York has clean, reliable energy. Businesses need affordable electricity in order to expand,” she added.
Finally, James Slevin, President, Utility Workers Union of America, Local 1-2, received his award. The Union represents over 8,000 members who work in the electric, gas, water and nuclear industries throughout New York, including more than 400 workers at the Indian Point Energy Center. “This is a partnership,” he said, “where labor, business and environmental interests come together for common goals. Labor’s message is brought to the table.” Slevin accepted the award on behalf of his members, who “go out in a storm, go out when it’s hot, and make sure everyone has the power they need, and the energy is safe and secure.” He also thanked his Business Agents, Senior Agents, Con Ed, Entergy, and others.
To close out the evening Speaker Heastie told the assembled crowd: “I’ve always been a fan of inexpensive energy. This is something that’s always been in my heart and mind.” He said that because increasingly extreme weather conditions “can have serious consequences in our communities, the City and State have to work together to get energy solutions.” He then thanked “the workers and others who keep the power flowing 24/7, those who keep the lights on for all of us in the State of New York.”