Jumping out of the gate after being selected to chair the City Councils committee on environmental protection, James Gennaro (D-Jamaica Estates) last Thursday said the most pressing environmental concern facing the city today is contamination at the World Trade Center site.
A day after being chosen to guide the Councils environmental policy, Gennaro attended a news conference on the steps of City Hall with U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) to call on the Environmental Protection Agency to take more care in the clean-up effort.
The EPA has not been as diligent as it can be in mandating and facilitating the testing of residences in Lower Manhattan, he said. Theres a lot of asbestos dust that may still reside in these residences.
Gennaro said the EPA went to great strains to clean its Lower Manhattan offices at 290 Broadway but did not use the same careful approach in ensuring residences in the area were safe.
For the short term, job one as chair of the Environmental Protection Committee is to make sure all environmental issues associated with the tragic events of Sept. 11 are dealt with appropriately by city, state and federal government, Gennaro said.
Moving on from the Twin Towers site, Gennaro said he planned to focus on ensuring the citys water supply remains safe and on decontaminating 5,000 to 6,000 defunct brownfield properties into safe, economically viable developments.
But addressing such issues as clean air in western Queens and toxic waste in Jamaica, the councilman also outlined some of the environmental concerns that more directly affect his home borough.
Joining Gennaro on the Environmental Protection Committee are Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica) and Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), representatives of Queens neighborhoods facing significant environmental challenges.
Gennaro said building new power plants alone will not rid Long Island City and Astoria of air pollution. As you build new facilities, you have to take old facilities off line, he said. Replacing older dirtier capacity plants with cleaner capacity ones doesnt do anything if you dont take the older ones off line.
Southeast Queens will also be on the Gennaro environmental watch. Weve got problems with toxic [sites] in Jamaica, toxic cleanups that have to be monitored, he said.
One of the Jamaica sites that Gennaro will undoubtedly focus on is the former West Side Corporation site, where dry cleaning chemicals leaked through the soil into the areas groundwater. Investigators are looking into whether contaminated groundwater could have caused what residents contend are elevated cancer rates. A recent state Health Department study did not show increased cancer rates.
We want to make sure those entrusted with making sure toxic chemicals dont pose peril to people of Queens are doing what theyre supposed to do, he said.
Gennaro, the former environmental policy adviser to the City Council, was nominated by Council Speaker A. Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), with whom he has worked for six years in the Council.
An environmental policy professor at Queens College, Gennaro was approved by his colleagues to run the committee, which comes along with a $10,000 stipend.
Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2002 Community News Group
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