Today’s news:

3 brothers indicted in ballfield dumping

Nearly four years after the city closed a 22-acre sports complex in College Point, three brothers have been indicted on charges of illegally dumping construction debris to level the ballfields in a move that forced hundreds of children to find other Queens parks.

The Queens district attorney said the three men who run carting businesses in Maspeth and Brooklyn saved more than $180,000 in dumping and carting costs by passing the material off as clean fill.

“This is a classic tale of selfishness and greed perpetrated upon the residents of College Point and their children in total disregard of their safety and in violation of environmental laws,” said Richard Brown, the Queens district attorney.

The culmination of a two-year investigation involving six city agencies, the indictment comes as the city finalizes its design plans for the sports complex next to Flushing Airport on 20th Avenue in College Point. The removal of more than 210,000 tons of construction debris that was used to build up the elevation of the ballfields is in the final stages.

Since 1997, when the ballfields were shuttered amid concerns over the quality of the landfill, hundreds of children have had to seek out other parks in northern Queens to play baseball, soccer and roller-hockey.

“We’re very happy that they’re moving ahead with the investigative end of this process,” said Tony Avella, president of the College Point Sports Association. “The people who caused this nightmare to the kids and the community should be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The brothers — Francesco Casalino, 42, of Malverne; Anthony Casalino, 36, of Howard Beach; and Joseph Casalino, 52, of Howard Beach — were arraigned on a 734-count indictment, charged with various environmental crimes and falsifying business records, among other things. The authorities said they operate Casalino Interior Demolition Corp. in Maspeth, Astro Trucking in Maspeth and Citywide Recycling Corp. in Brooklyn. If convicted, the men each face up to four years in prison and fines upwards of $25,000 for each environmental violation.

The authorities also said they were still investigating as many as six other contractors who may have trucked in such landfill. The city is expected to file a lawsuit to recoup money the city has been spent on cleaning up the fields, an amount the district attorney put at $10 million and said could rise by an another $5 million in the next few years.

In 1976, the College Point Sports Association, a non-profit group, signed a lease with the city for a 22-acre parcel near 130th Street and 20th Avenue, paying a symbolic $1 a year. Nearly 19 years later, the association decided to build a sport complex and contracted Enviro-Fill Inc., which agreed to level the ground with landfill from local contractors at no charge to the city or the association.

Enviro-Fill said it would need 140,000 cubic yards of clean fill to accomplish the leveling and charged the contractors, including the ones indicted Monday, $8 and $10 per cubic yard to dump at the site.

Since it is more difficult and more expensive to dispose of construction and demolition debris, the three contractors allegedly trucked in subgrade fill, covering it with a thin layer of top soil in order to mask the presence of pipes, concrete and wallboard, the district attorney said. The contractors had no permit to dump the landfill at the ballfields and were supposed to have brought it to a transfer station instead. Over a 300-day period, the district attorney said, the contractors delivered more than 900 truckloads of debris.

The district attorney said that because of its inferior quality, construction and demolition debris typically costs more to dispose of than clean fill. The contractors, he said, saved on average $5 for every cubic yard of landfill they unloaded, which amounts to more than $183,000 in the dumping of 36,700 cubic yards.

After the topsoil had worn away, plumbing fixtures, rusty pipes and concrete began to poke through the fields, an indication that clean fill had not been used, the district attorney said. The authorities said they were able to link the dumping of the landfill to the contractors who were indicted by poring over sheaves of documents during a two-year investigation.

“One of the things that was particularly egregious about Casalino was that they were licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs and have been in business for about 20 years,” said Raymond Casey, the commissioner of the Trade Waste Commission.

“They knew they couldn’t dump this on a baseball field. They knew they needed to go to a legitimate site and pay more money to dump it. And so because it was cheaper, they dumped it there on a baseball field.”

Casey said it was not uncommon for investigations into environmental crimes to take as long as two years, and said prosecutors are given additional time to complete them. The authorities spent nearly a year reviewing more than 10,000 documents that demonstrated the Casalino contractors had brought the landfill to the ballfields, the commissioner said.

A spokesman for the city Department of Design and Construction said construction on the $4.7 million sports complex could begin as early as June. The preliminary designs include the construction of two ballfields, a full-sized one and a smaller one for little league, and a roller-hockey rink.

Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Community Board 7, said she welcomed the indictment.

“I’m glad that justice is being done, but it’s still unfair to see that additional money had to be expended to get the fields back in shape,” she said. “And the people that lost were the children.”

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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