By Cynthia Koons

The developer, College Point Properties, plans to build 86 elegant two-family homes on a parcel that until now existed as an enclosed former landfill. The developer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Paul Graziano, an environmental conservation consultant, said the developer is rushing to begin the almost 20-year-old construction project before zoning laws potentially change what can be done with the site.

“The (state Department of Environmental Conservation) put a restriction on the property that the property had to be cleaned up,” he said. “What I'm worried about is that they'll never clean this up to the standard that it should be cleaned up for residential development on the site.”

Graziano reviewed the environmental plan for the 8.5-acre site at 5th Avenue and 121st Street in College Point. He said he was disappointed with the consultants' proposed cleanup and maintenance of what he considers potentially harmful property.

“I have a lot of issues with the report,” he said. “This is basically a Superfund site. It is seriously contaminated.”

The environmental study by ETG Inc., an environmental consultant hired by the developer, proposes that a vapor barrier be built below ground to prevent gases, liquids and solids from entering home foundations. On undeveloped land, the study calls for the builder to lay a plastic sheet over the ground and cover it with two feet of fresh topsoil to trap any potentially harmful substances from rising to the surface.

The study noted that “PCBs have been found in the floating product on the site” and are in the subsurface soils at levels of 150 to 200 parts per million. The soil is saturated with petroleum and “volatile organic compounds are also found at the same hot spot locations as the petroleum contaminated soils,” it said.

“What they would do is create a homeowners' association which would be responsible if any of these remedies started to fail,” Graziano said. “You're burdening the homeowners with any future problems with that site.”

A state Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman said the environmental study by ETG was a cooperative effort between the consultants, DEC and Department of Health.

The monthlong public comment period for the proposed study ended Friday. Now the DEC plans to review the commentary and make a final decision on the excavation and development of the site.

Approval for this development was granted by the city in the 1980s, Graziano said, when the Board of Estimate's nod meant no future reviews would be necessary before construction could take place. The only exception was the developer would be subjected to DEC's mandated environmental testing and cleanup.

Graziano recently compiled a study that suggested the site should be rezoned for lower-density development, which prompted the developer to begin its environmental study and construction project within the parameters that have already been approved.

In the study, the consultant for the developer concluded: “The site may be impacted by proposed zoning changes. There is an urgency to begin development on the site in order to retain the present zoning approvals. We therefore respectfully request that the proposed remedy be given approval and be implemented as quickly as possible.”

James Cervino, an environmental scientist in College Point, said the rush to clean the property in light of the potential zoning change was alarming.

“There's nothing in (the study) that really discusses an environmental cleanup for the goodness and people of Whitestone and College Point,” Cervino said. “This is a preparation for building plans. They care nothing about remediating the environmental damage that was done due to the toxins that were dumped there.”

Cervino was one of the respondents during the public comment period.

“They are going to build on valuable state-protected wetlands,” he said. “If someone is looking to do an environmental cleanup, why put in your closing sentences that we need to expedite this quicker before changes in zoning laws?”

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext 141.



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