Board Boos Battery on Berry St.

Tenants fear fire and fight installation of 150 tons of lithium power reserves on their roof

Berry Street Playground view of 315 Berry. Photo credit: Lori Ann Doyon

How to obtain power is an age-old question.  Power in our day and age also means something that is accessible to all and hardly thought about.  We turn on a light, we don’t think of the how the current came to be running through the walls to the switch.  But as the stress on our power grid increases combined with the need to halt climate change, the search is on for viable renewable power sources.  One such alternative to using fossil fuels is lithium ion battery storage.

“Utility scale battery storage will play a vital role in New York’s clean energy future, especially in New York City where it will help to maximize the benefit of the wind power being developed offshore.”  Tim Cawley, the president of Con Edison, was quoted in a 2020 press release. This was on announcing their project with 174 Power Global to build the largest battery storage project in New York State on an industrial site in Astoria, Queens. The project was approved seven months later by the New York State Public Service Commission, in July of 2021.  It is currently in development.

A battery storage unit has been in the planning stages in our community for 315 Berry Street since 2020.

MicroGrid Networks (MGN) located in the community at 1074 Grand Street (between Waterbury Street and Morgan Avenue) is leading this project.  They are in the business of developing, constructing, and operating resilient clean energy generation and storage systems, facilities, and networks.  They chose 315 Berry after “surveying over 200 sites in three years in North Brooklyn, in order to find up to 70 MW [megawatts] of storage for ConEd,” as stated in a presentation for Brooklyn Community Board 1 (Bk CB1).  They informed that only two sites met the criteria: 243 Calyer Street and 315 Berry, but the latter required a special permit from the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).

The residents of 315 Berry Street have been on “fiya” since learning that an estimated 150 tons of lithium ion battery was to be put on their roof.  With reports of local fires caused by lithium ion batteries for E-bikes and etc., this is felt to be a major threat to the residents.  There is also no precedent for this: this would be the first time that battery storage would be placed on a residential building.  In addition, there are questions as to whether the building’s structure can hold the weight.  The NY Post reported on December 21, 2022 the building was in questionable condition, “as it is covered in cracks, floods frequently, has over 25 open violations, and a partial vacate order from when a chunk of the facade fell into the now-closed community garden below.”

In addition to the 315 Berry Street residents’ worries, concern could also be given to those who frequent the Berry Street Playground, which borders on the side of 315 Berry Street, where the battery’s intended placement will be.  Historic residences on South 4th Street are also nearby, and any fire could be a threat to them.

If the tenants of 315 Berry are concerned about potential danger from battery storage atop their roof – South 4th Street residences are yards away from the edge of the building the batteries will be located on. Photo credit: Lori Ann Doyon

MGN’s presentation to Bk CB1 stated, “All batteries and technologies are approved by state and local authorities, including NYC Fire Department (FDNY) and the NYC Department of Buildings Office of Technical Certification and Research (DOB OTCR).” As to the 315 Berry Street’s condition, “MGN is planning to replace [the] old roof that contributes to existing leaks and cracks and upgrade with [a] new insulated roof.  The installation will meet all of the city safety codes for energy storage and must be approved by FDNY and DOB OTCR prior to installation.”

Bk CB1’s ruling recommended against the approval of the BSA special permit.

The BSA Public Hearing for MGN’s application for 315 Berry Street is scheduled for March 27 or 28, 2023. 

“The public will be able to participate via zoom on the that date.  Testimony can also be submitted in writing to the Board Office via it is requested that in the subject email the address and calendar number (2020-88-BZ) be included to ensure that all communications are properly distributed and included into the record.  The Board will decide at that hearing the next steps.  The Board may determine to close the matter and schedule for a decision at a later date or request additional materials and schedule the matter for an additional hearing,” said Carlo Costanza – Executive Director, NYC Board of Standards and Appeals.

It has yet to be determined which date the hearing on 315 Berry Street will occur. To access the either the March 27 or March 28 meeting on YouTube:

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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