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Avella calls out DEC on Waterpointe development

Avella and community leaders ask why developers used inappropriate fill at Waterpointe development.
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Residents are asking the state Department of Environmental Conservation why inappropriate landfill was used at the Waterpointe Development site.

In September, DEC announced it was using a lesser grade of soil, called Track 4 restricted residential use as opposed to the higher grade Track 2 that was originally agreed upon. The 18-acre waterfront property, located at 151st Place and 6th road, was purchased by Edgestone Group LLC in 2012 for $11 million. The developers originally planned to build 97 two-family townhouse homes plus nine single-family houses, but Community Board 7 and then Councilman Tony Avella (D-Whitestone) negotiated with developers to prevent what they thought would be over- development on the property.

Waterpointe is now being built under a special permit issued by the Department of City Planning that allows for the construction of 52 single-family homes. Waterpointe Development now requires environmental oversight because of the prior industrial uses of the property over many decades. The land was previously owned by Bayrock Group, which bought the land in 2005 for $25 million. According to reports, Bayrock racked up $150,000 in DEC fines for bringing in toxic soil to the already contaminated site. This led the current developers to enroll in the DEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Things seemed to be moving along, according to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) until he received a letter from DEC in September entitled “Explanation of Significant Differences” explaining why changes to the soil fill had been allowed to the remediation plan. Avella believes the switch from Track 2 to Track 4 soil will negatively affect future owners in this development. DEC said after it discovered the fill being used at the site did not meet residential soil cleanup objectives, it switched over to Track 4 restricted residential use.At a press conference Tuesday, Avella expressed disappointment and anger at DEC for changing the remediation plan without consulting elected officials or the community. He asked DEC to tell the community when exactly DECknew they were going to make changes. The senator said using an inappropriate fill could have serious repercussions for whoever ends up living at the site and could restrict how homeowners are allowed to use soil on their own property.

“When I raised questions with your staff regarding these changes, I was told that participation in the Brownfield Remediation program is voluntary,” he said. “I expect that once an entity chooses to enter into the program it must comply with the requirements of the program and should not be able to change its compliance simply because it chooses not to.”

Avella also raised questions about the soil mitigation plan to deal with the soil vapor from contaminated groundwater that was discovered on the site. He said that while there had always been a possibility that a mitigation system for dealing with soil vapor issues would be needed, DEC waited too long to provide confirmation to CB 7 that this was definitively required. He added that the soil mitigation plan would require a “vapor intrusion depressurization system” and wanted to know the estimated increased costs future owners of these homes would have to pay.

A DEC spokeswoman said the agency had communicated on several occasions with Avella’s office about the remediation of this site, including changing the soil type to Track 4 to protect public health and the environment.

“If the property is controlled by means of common ownership or a single owner/managing entity, “ the agency said, “the remedy will not prohibit single-family housing and as such the proposed 52-unit subdivision contemplated by the Special Permit is an acceptable re-use of this site.”

DEC said in order to support ongoing site management at Waterpointe and to protect future residents, the agency is establishing an escrow agreement with the developer to fund site management activities at this spot for a period of 10 years in the amount of $272,000.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

Posted 12:00 am, December 6, 2017
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