Seniors fighting the plan to replace Trump Village Shopping Center with a massive apartment tower are worried the project could move forward over their dead bodies.
At a meeting about the removal of the contaminated soil beneath the site, one resident expressed fear that stirring up the toxins could drive the opposition underground — literally.
“The harder it gets for us, the easier it gets for him — we’ll just decease faster,” said Rose Alder, a longtime Trump Village resident. “One way or another, a lot of lives will be shortened — and that is good for the developer.”
National Grid — which acquired the company that used to operate a manufactured gas plant at the site — held a meeting at Trump Village Section Four on Feb. 23 to explain its plans for the cleanup of the soil, which is contaminated with coal tar and other chemicals, including mercury and cyanide.
The site was the former Dangman Manufactured Gas plant and it operated from the 1880s to around 1918. Like many of the hundreds of former manufactured gas plants throughout the city, the site has been contaminated for decades, but the toxins were contained by the parking lot and the shopping center, which serve as a protective barrier.
But a representative from National Grid said the contaminated soil will have to be carted away if the developer rips up the pavement and excavates the site, which will be necessary to construct the foundations for the planned 40-story residential tower.
“This area of New York, you’re covered with asphalt and buildings, so no one comes into contact with that material,” said Andrew Prophete, the project manager for National Grid. “If not for the development, it is completely safe, you wouldn’t have to do anything.”
The Department of Environmental Conservation, which will oversee National Grid’s cleanup, assured residents at a public meeting in Brighton Beach earlier this month that the cleanup process will be smelly but safe, and won’t pose a threat to residents. But locals and elected officials have expressed concerns about the potential for hidden health threats, especially to senior citizens who may be particularly vulnerable to these toxins.
Local zoning allows owner Rubin Schron to construct the planned tower as of right, so opponents have little hope of blocking the project, but one resident said she wished he would be satisfied simply sprucing up the shopping center without demolishing it to build the tower, which would eliminate the need for the cleanup.
“A positive change would be a nice improved shopping center that everyone needs,” said Andrea Bobrow, who added that the developer is trying to make a quick buck regardless of the impact on residents. “It is all because he wants to get richer at the expense of many.”
Alder said the developer is ignoring the opposition to the project because he’s banking, quite literally, on the fact that time is on his side.
“In five, six years, all the complainers will be gone. What does he care?” she said.