The finding was sent in a letter from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to state Sen. Frank Padavan (D-Bellerose), who proposed the study initially. "Considering the sensitive nature of the planned use of the site," the DEC said, it would require a complete cleanup of the area as well as an examination of what adverse impact the contamination might have before the School Construction Authority could pursue building the school. DEC Spokeswoman Maureen Wren said elements of petroleum were found and the department was currently looking for signs of any other contaminants. The School Construction Authority is reviewing the study and should officially release it a few weeks, a spokeswoman from the Department of Education said. The release will then trigger the SCA's site selection process, which includes a Community Board 8 public hearing and eventual approval from the City Council, the spokeswoman said. The SCA did not elaborate on specifics of the report or whether the findings would force the agency to abandon the site, which is used to house a morgue. Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), chairman of the Council's Environmental Protection Committee, said remediation of the site superseded any further plans for its development. "It's got to be cleaned," he said. "And it's got to be cleaned to Adam and Eve standards." Gennaro said the SCA and Hospitals and Medical Centers, which owns the site, have committed to a meeting with elected officials and the community later in the month to discuss the contamination, its source, the potential impact and a speedy cleanup. As of now, the councilman said his presumption was that the contamination was caused by diesel fuel leaked from a storage tank beneath the site. Depending on the extent, the discovery of contamination may obstruct plans for the school, which was part of an overall development project on the hospital campus that many Hillcrest residents have loudly contended would congest their the neighborhood. Robert Trabold, of the Hillcrest Citizens for Neighborhood Preservation, said the 29,000 students who attend St. John's University and the numerous public and parochial schools in the area along with staff and patients at the Queens Medical Center already overcrowd the streets and bus lines and hinder parking. Hillcrest's 107th Precinct currently houses the most schools of any other precinct in the city. CB 8 District Manager Diane Cohen said the board has in the past requested the school host fewer students, provide more teacher parking and relocate to a different part of the campus than on Goethals Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 164th Street. On the contamination study, Trabold said he was "happy that this revelation has come out because up to this point, the SCA has not been forthcoming with this information." The letter from the DEC was in response to Padavan's dual letters sent in December to the DEC and the Department of Education on behalf of Trabold's civic association. "This study of possible soil and ground water pollution has serious potential ramifications in view of the Department of Education's proposal to construct a new high school on this site," one letter said. Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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