PORT RICHMOND — A plan to dump material dredged from the bottom of New York Harbor onto a boat docked on Staten Island has some residents fearful it will kill their dream of a waterfront park.
Flag Container Service, on Ferry Street in Port Richmond, plans to start bringing in "dredge spoils" — material collected from the bottom of the ocean — from across the five boroughs to sell for use in construction projects, company officials said at a recent meeting.
The company will put the material on a barge near an empty city-owned lot at the foot of Port Richmond Avenue that residents have been eyeing for a new public waterfront green space.
"That could be a beautiful area," said Charles Kitts, founder of the community group Port Richmond Proud.
"It's not going to be a beautiful area with a dredge spoil barge. Our balloon just got burst quickly."
While the barge won't touch the city-owned piece of land, Kitts and others fear that officials won't put a park there if the only view will be of the heap of dredged material.
Others in the neighborhood are concerned about the health risks of putting the material so close to residents, with Richmond Terrace serving as the only buffer between the barge and their homes.
"[Dredge spoils] serve a necessary purpose, but they should have suitable buffers between their operations," said Beryl Thurman, an environmentalist and president of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy. "Literally they're next door from residents."
Flag Container did not respond to a request for comment, but the engineer for the project said at a Community Board 1 meeting last week that the material would be run through a series of tests to make sure it is not hazardous.
However, Thurman wasn't convinced and said that state Department of Environmental Conservation rules allows dredge spoils to contain approved levels of some contaminants, like lead.
And with Port Richmond currently participating in the city's Brownfield Opportunity Area program, which funds neighborhood revitalization projects, Thurman said the dredging plans don't make sense.
"The neighborhood is changing and it's just the wrong location for what it is they're trying to do," she said.
The Department of Environmental Conservation, which will have to approve the dredge storage plans before they can move forward, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The mayor's office and the city's Parks Department also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At the CB1 meeting last week, where about a dozen residents spoke out against the plan, representatives from Flag said the dredged material could benefit the community. The dredge will be mixed with concrete, which will be used for a variety of construction projects — including many local ones.
But Kitts, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, said he'd rather have a park with waterfront access where residents could hold concerts and events.
"We're trying to make Port Richmond a better place, a safer place," he said. "We don't need [dredge spoils]. We do need community space overlooking the water."