The planned opening of a concrete plant in Red Hook has flown into a cloud of opposition from residents who fear the company will release harmful airborne dust into homes, parks and a small-scale organic farm.
US Concrete, the publicly traded industrial conglomerate, says its facility, scheduled to open this year next to the Ikea on Beard Street, will meet all regulations and may actually be less harmful than the unused manufacturing lot on which it will be built.
“We think the dust coming off the site will be less than if it was [still] a vacant lot,” said Michael Gentoso, a regional vice president for US Concrete. The local business will be a subsidiary called Eastern Concrete.
“We have excellent safety records. We have excellent community records,” he said last Thursday in a meeting with Red Hook residents. He also said that he hoped that the prospect of unionized jobs would appeal to neighbors.
But neighbors are dubious, especially because they believe US Company carried out demolition work without obtaining requisite permits, though the company claimed it was a “clean-up” and not actual demolition work.
City zoning currently ensures that much of Red Hook’s land remains restricted to industry, including the site in question. It’s also a convenient location for the firm because of its proximity to the Gowanus Expressway and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
But some say it’s too close for comfort. US Concrete’s factory would sit across the street from Added Value, a community farm, and Red Hook Park, with its sprawling athletic fields.
It is also next to the Ikea superstore, with its peaceful waterfront park.
“It’s an awkward location that should have required more study,” said John McGettrick, co-president of the Red Hook Civic Association.
McGettrick said the company should perform an environmental review before opening, but officials from the company dodged the request, neither consenting to nor rejecting it.
The complaints extend to the expected noise, exhaust and traffic from the 15 to 20 trucks that the company says it will operate from the site.
“Traffic is going to be too much. In and out. In and out,” said Lillian Marshall, tenants association president for Red Hook Houses West.
Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D–Red Hook) brought the two sides together for the summit meeting last week in the Red Hook Community Justice Center, but promptly left before the discussion began.
She said she was neutral about the company’s arrival in her district, but her comment suggested that her neutrality had limits.
“Children’s health is important. The park is important,” she said. But “this is not about ganging up on US Concrete.”
©2009 Community News Group
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