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Juniper Park Civic says city kept report from public

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After receiving an environmental impact assessment that shows significant soil pollution at the site of the newly approved Maspeth High School, the Juniper Park Civic Association blasted the city for trying to sneak the information past the public.

“They knew a lot of community groups were interested in this project,” said Juniper Park Civic Secretary Christina Wilkinson. “In the past, when we’ve had projects like this, when the impact statements have come out, they’ve been physically mailed to civic groups.”

A city Department of Education spokesman said it released the report to Community Board 5 and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village) when it was completed in February. Crowley’s office confirmed she had reviewed the report and said she stood behind her vote against the school.

“The School Construction Authority and the Department of Education are obliged by law to clean up any contamination on school construction sites before building a school,” Crowley said in a statement. “Toxins in soil on industrial sites is a given. The soil contamination was identified in the environmental impact statement because it is part of their plan in addressing the issues in order to clean the site before constructing the school.”

She pledged to keep an eye on the remediation process.

The report found elevated levels of petroleum−related volatile organic compounds and tetrachloroethene in soil vapor and elevated concentrations of semi−volatile organic compounds and in the soil, chalking the substances up to “the historic presence of nearby automobile service stations, dry cleaners, a salvage yard, manufacturing facilities and a former gas manufacturing facility.”

The report recommends installing a vapor barrier and ventilation system to prevent the buildup of vapors in the building, as well as replacing the contaminated infill previously used at the site.

Wilkinson compared the toxic residue in the soil at the Maspeth location to a chemical vapor issue raised by parents at Long Island City’s Information Technology High School in 2007.

There, parents and Councilmen Eric Gioia (D−Sunnyside) and James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) lambasted the city for leasing the former metal plating warehouse to avoid the public review process.

Gioia did not respond to a request for comment by press time Tuesday.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:34 pm, October 10, 2011
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