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Residents Demand Greenpoint Towers Environmental Impact Study

By Meredith Hoffman | September 25, 2013 6:35am
 The petition for an environmental impact study before excavation uses a photo from a brownfield site in Long Island City.
The petition for an environmental impact study before excavation uses a photo from a brownfield site in Long Island City.
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Omi Industries

GREENPOINT — Construction of the 12 towers slated for Greenpoint's polluted waterfront could release harmful toxins into the air, local residents and leaders warn.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol and nearly 200 residents are demanding the city study the potential impacts of construction near Newtown Creek, and have signed a petition asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to require an environmental study before developers begin excavating at Greenpoint Landing and 77 Commercial St.

"What are consequences on public health when cumulative heavy construction in the area exposes residents to compromised indoor air quality from toxic vapor barriers?" asks the petition, referring to contaminants released by brownfield sites and the Superfund site of Newtown Creek. "Governor Cuomo: Protect Greenpoint and our children from toxins before it is too late!"

Residents have long had concerns over the city's lack of attention to the health concerns spurred by the creek's pollution, and the site's clean-up has already been found to contaminate the air.

"The history of environmental abuse in the area should warrant an examination for the benefit and safety of the people in the community," Lentol said.

He noted that a study of the land was done during the 2005 rezoning of the neighborhood, but said it was "based on outdated data" since so much development has occurred since then.

Lifelong Greenpoint resident Laura Hofmann, a member of the community environmental group Newtown Creek Alliance, said the 2005 assessment of the construction's impact fell short in examining the work's full impact, particularly since in recent years leaders have made more discoveries about the toxins in the area.

"The old environmental impact statement was started well before the 2005 rezoning," she said of the city's evaluation. "Much has changed. Residents, elected officials and even city officials are aware of more than they were in 2005, including toxic plumes."

Representatives for the developers, however, maintained that the assessments in 2005 were sufficient to showing the ground was safe for excavation.

“Greenpoint Landing has commissioned extensive studies and physical investigations of the entire Greenpoint Landing site and it does not contain hazardous materials,” a spokeswoman for Greenpoint Landing Associates said.

The spokesman for the Chetrit Group, developer of 77 Commercial St., also said the city's study showed no harm would be done by the construction.

"City Planning reviewed the environmental study, which was done in relation to this project and this site," the spokesman said of the 2005 study. "The Superfund issues were taken into account."

A representative from the city's Department of Environmental Protection referred questions about the study to the Department of Buildings, which did not respond to requests for comment. And a representative for Cuomo did not return calls and emails requesting comment.

Meanwhile residents such as Kim Masson, who said she lives surrounded by brownfield sites right next to the slated towers, said they already felt anxious about the next few years of construction.

"I have no doubt myself and my neighbors will be exposed to nasty chemicals once they start digging up all that contaminated earth over such a large area," Masson said.