Toxic timebomb? Neighbors want halt on Broadway tower until site is cleaned

Toxic timebomb? Neighbors want halt on Broadway tower until site is cleaned
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A group of Williamsburg residents are incensed that work on a new 15-story housing tower on the corner of Broadway and Kent Avenue will begin construction even though a six-year-old toxic spill underneath the site has not been fully cleaned up.

“There are dozens of stalled projects in Williamsburg, more than in any part of the city, so what’s the urgency of putting this building up?” asked Williamsburg resident Bill Storandt. “Why can’t they just clean up the site as the law requires?”

The project, financed by L+M Development Partners and Goldman Sachs, would consist of 160 units, 80 percent of which will be priced at below-market rates, revitalizing a stalled site where plans to construct a $70-million luxury hotel fizzled in 2007.

But the site contains a toxic oil spill and other contaminants — its legacy as a former gas station a decade ago — and state officials confirmed that it currently does not meet environmental standards.

“The [state] determined that more sampling was needed in the site excavation areas to determine whether or not additional contamination remains that needs to be addressed,” said Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Maureen Wren. “The soil sample data indicated elevated levels of contamination, so more remediation is needed, including the excavation of contaminated soil.”

The site’s former owner removed 13 diesel tanks in early 2007, but the state’s case on the site remains open.

“There were some environmental hazards at the site and they haven’t been resolved,” said Angel Mendoza, who lives across the street from the building. “We can see the site from the top of our roof and we know for a fact that rusty diesel tanks were pulled out from the site, leaving huge holes.”

A spokesman for the owner acknowledged the existing oil spill reported to the state and that the owner plans to address the spill “in connection with current construction activities” and in accordance with the state’s requirements.

But Wren said that the developer has not submitted a required work plan detailing its clean-up efforts — which must be sent in before construction begins on the site.

And neighbors remain nervous that the developer’s plan to include a supermarket on the ground floor of the building will put food products close to the pollution.

“They’re going to put a food in the first floor where there was contamination and probably store food in the basement?” said Mendoza. “That’s a concern for us.”

Photo by Stefano Giovannini