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Manager: Jamaica lot to be clean

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A noisy, city-contracted compactor in a South Jamaica lot that once separated concrete from dirt now lies silent after community complaints prompted state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) to meet with the major players involved with the property.

Surrounded by mounds of dirt at least 10 feet high, the barely visible plot is about the size of a city block at Baisley Boulevard and 172nd Street, but a large crane, slabs of concrete, and dumpsters are visible from the gated entrance.

On the perimeter of the lot, tires, mattresses, pieces of piping, beer bottles and even a strip of yellow “caution” tape are strewn about.

On Feb. 1, Scarborough, whose district includes the lot, met with the manager of operations at the site, Michael Capasso from CAC Industries; the contractor hired by the city; and Edward Hightower, manager of Rochdale Village, a nearby cooperative community that owns the plot and leases it to the city.

Also attending the meeting were Leroy Comrie, the district manager for City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans), members of the Locus Manner Civic Association, and the Community Action Group Against Toxic Dumping .

“There were clearly some problems described to me about the site,” Scarborough said. “Certainly it was not something I would like to live next to or have my constituents live next to.”

Comrie agreed that the site needed cleaning up. He said it had been used as a vehicle storage facility for Rochdale Village until about two years ago. Before the meeting he was not aware of its new use as a compacting site.

As a result of the meeting, Capasso agreed that the compactor would immediately cease operations, ending the pounding, grinding, and other noise. Capasso said that within 60 days the site would be leveled, emptied, cleaned and exterminated.

Hightower promised to install a fence around the area immediately after it is cleared and cleaned.

“I think it was a very productive meeting,” Scarborough said, noting that the contractor had also agreed to periodically clean the area surrounding the site. The community action group has also recommended that the property be used for a school or a park.

Scarborough also said Hightower agreed not to renew Rochdale’s contract with the city in September, so CAC Industries’ presence will end. Future meetings will determine the site’s use in the fall.

Comrie said such a large piece of private property would be nice for a school or housing, both of which are increasingly scarce in the borough.

“I would like to see it used for some community benefit,” he said.

Saundra Pope, the coordinator for the community action group, launched a campaign against the lot last month.

Pope’s major complaints with the site were noise from the compactor as well as environmental problems associated with dust and fumes, which can cause breathing problems for neighbors, especially asthmatics.

On Monday, Pope said the banging noises had apparently ceased, but the dirt piles surrounding the property appeared to be growing.

“It’s serious because children can go in there,” Pope said. “Kids explore, they are adventurous, and there is no gate enclosing the area.”

Local resident James Barbee said the lot was affected by a sewer project on Baisley Boulevard and 172nd Street a few months ago, but the area is now quiet.

“It is not disturbing me,” Barbee said, “There is mostly nobody over there.”

And M. Robinson, a woman who lives across the boulevard from the site, also said the construction noise there stopped several months ago.

Joseph Gooding, who stopped his car near the site to talk with some friends, said he would not use the location as a meeting place if it was noisy. “Anybody who says there is noise here is lying,” he said.

Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12, which covers the property, said the lot is just a dump site that is periodically cleaned by the Department of Health.

“It is a dump-out site — it has always been a dump-out site,” Reddick said. “It has been there as long as I have been at Community Board 12.”

Reddick, who has been at the board for 16 years, said she was not concerned about changing the status of the site.

“The person who is drawing attention to it is running for office and she is going to use it as a platform,” Reddick added, “and I have a problem with that.”

Pope said several area residents have urged her to run for City Council, but regardless of who holds the district’s seat, she said “if the constituents vote you in, I think it is a political responsibility to look into it.”

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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