$39 M. Substation is Key to the College’s Future, VP of Finance Says
By Victoria Priola
The College of Staten Island plans to use $39 million of the state’s critical maintenance budget to build a new substation on campus within the next two to three years in hopes of preventing critical electrical failures such as blackouts and allowing the campus to push forward with projects for new buildings.
The substation on the campus, here, brings in high voltage power from the other side of the fence from Con Edison. It goes into the substation and gets distributed for use of the campus.
“Aside from the existing substation being old, it’s also at its capacity,” said Ira Persky, Vice President of Finances. “The further growth of the campus would be compromised if we don’t upgrade to a new substation.”
The three major blackouts that have occurred on campus over the past two years caused the College to take action and replace the current station that has been active since 1993.
“Well, yes. It was a result in the failure of the substation,” said Persky. “What caused those outages were different reasons, though.”
On Christmas Eve in 2014, a fire, which turned into a contained explosion within the substation, caused a blackout throughout campus.
According to Persky, the reason for the explosion is still unknown. The power outage lasted about 22 hours.
“This time we were lucky and were able to contain the damage,” said Rana Mohammad, CSI’s Student Government President. “We certainly cannot risk fire and explosion in our campus with 450 dorm students living on our campus.”
The two incidents following were results of the first outage. The substation operates by splitting the campus’ electrical usage into one of two lines, what Persky referred to as the 05 and 06 lines.
If one side is obstructed, there are switches inside the substation that will automatically bring the power to one feeder, to one side. The campus cannot operate on one feed.
“The problem is, we don’t have any redundancy,” said Persky. “If something goes wrong at that point, we don’t have any protection.”
As of now, this is the single biggest construction project in the works for the College.
Persky assured The Banner that this project is completely state funded and will not affect student tuition.
It will be located East of the existing substation, which is on the outside of Loop Rd near building 1M.
When asked about the reaction from faculty and students that know about the new substation, Persky said this is not the kind of thing people get excited about, until they don’t have power. It has been, however, talked about for an extended period of time.
The campus is currently running on full capacity and is in need of something that can handle more power.
By the time the new substation is up and running, CSI plans to welcome a new building to campus.
The Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center (IHPCC) building design has been in the works since 2012.
In March 2012, CSI Today, a publication run by CSI’s PR team, posted a bulletin that said the CUNY Board of Trustees approved a design consultant agreement with Hendrickson, Durham & Richardson, for the new building on February 27.
The computational science research building is expected to be 175,000 gross square foot and cost $210 million, according to CSI Today.
It’s anticipated that the departments of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Engineering Science and Physics will be relocated to the new building, and it will have its own cafe.
Having a stronger substation is the first step to making the IHPCC building a reality. Persky claims that students will not feel any immediate changes due to the construction.
There will be minimal intrusiveness to students and faculty during the production process.
“There may be some temporary outages that we would have,” said Persky. “But they would be well publicized as we do switch over from the old substation to the new substation.”
As of right now, plans of construction are moving slowly but surely, for both projects.
“If it’s for good or bad, I don’t know,” said Mohammad in reference to the substation. “I do know that the current substation is like a melting thermal reactor that needs to be addressed in a timely basis.”
When The Banner asked if the new substation was a necessary purchase, Persky’s answer was brief:
“Well,” he mused. “Only if we want to have lights.”