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Padavan pressed on toxic school bill

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Leased school sites are currently not subject to formal environmental review and assessment nor public or City Council approval, though the School Construction Authority does its own testing. Sites the city owns, however, must undergo all of the above assessments.A 2007 bill before the state Assembly would require the same overview for leased school sites as ones the city owns. Padavan sponsored legislation in the state Senate that would require leased sites to undergo a two-phase environmental review and require a public hearing for any eventual cleanup plan."We're concerned the city places schools on contaminated [leased] sites throughout the city, and the cleanups are often not strong enough" to make them safe for student use without permanent monitoring of gases or other chemicals in the air and soil, said Dave Palmer, a staff attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.Between 1999 and 2002, Katie Acton's daughter attended PS 65 in Ozone Park, which is on a leased site found to contain perchloroethylene (PCE), a dangerous chemical used in dry cleaning."It was a former factory where high levels of PCE were discovered," Acton said of the school site. "My daughter developed asthma, and her grades dropped while she was at PS 65. If we'd known [about the contamination], the doctor probably would've recommended taking her out of the school."Palmer was involved in the review process for the new city-owned site near Queens Hospital Center for the Gateway to Health Sciences School, which was approved by the Council last summer after negotiations with civic groups, Community Board 8 and city Education Department and School Construction Authority representatives.State Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights) introduced legislation in the state Senate mirroring the Assembly bill, but his party is in the minority, Palmer said. The group hopes to sway Padavan because, as a veteran legislator in the Republican-controlled Senate, he has the clout to effect this change.Padavan was in Albany Tuesday morning, but his staff circulated a statement about the Senate version of the legislation."The legislation that we have developed ensures that any proposed leased site for a school undergoes a two-phased environmental review process with adequate time for public review and comment on any site remediation plan impacting the students, parents and community," Padavan said.Dave Solano, a member of the DOE parents advisory council for District 25, said he supports the Assembly bill for its transparency."The bottom line is there shouldn't be anything withheld from the parents and the community," Solano said.

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