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Odor of Hot Tar from Construction Firm is Stinking Up Red Hook, Locals Say

By Nikhita Venugopal | October 22, 2014 1:00pm
 The 39 Coffey St. office of Triangle G.C. Inc. in Red Hook. The company was issued a "Notice of Violation" by the city for a "pungent odor of tar" coming from 49-50 Coffey St.
The 39 Coffey St. office of Triangle G.C. Inc. in Red Hook. The company was issued a "Notice of Violation" by the city for a "pungent odor of tar" coming from 49-50 Coffey St.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

RED HOOK — Foul-smelling hot tar from a construction company in Red Hook is stinking up the neighborhood, according to residents who are demanding a solution to the “unbearable” odor.

Triangle G.C. Inc, a general contractor that offers roofing services, has been located at 39 Coffey St. near Van Dyke Street in Red Hook for two years.

Residents and local business owners have complained for months that trucks used to heat and store the tar parked near the company's office have been emitting stinking fumes that often waft throughout the neighborhood.

In the last year, 38 complaints for odor and air problems have been logged in the city’s 311 system in the vicinity of Triangle’s office, records show.

In August, the Department of Environmental Protection issued a "Notice of Violation" to Triangle for a “pungent odor of tar” that was “annoying” and caused “discomfort” to the inspector, according to city records.

The company will appear before the Environmental Control Board next week as a result of the notice, according to the DEP. Follow-up inspections in September and October did not yield any violations of the NYC Air Code, which aims to protect and improve the city's air quality.

Exposure to fumes from asphalt — a petroleum product that is used extensively in road paving, roofing and concrete work — can cause headaches, skin rashes, fatigue, eye and throat irritation or, in extreme cases, skin cancer, according to the federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration.

The stench primarily affects people at night and on weekends within four square blocks of the trucks’ location, but some residents claimed that the odor even permeates over to Van Brunt Street near Conover Street — about five blocks away from the site. 

The fumes are “defiling the neighborhood,” said local resident Mark Chin. “That’s got to stop.”

Triangle president Florin Krasniqi promised to find a different location for his trucks, he told residents, elected officials and Community Board 6 at his first sit-down meeting with them on Monday. The meeting was closed to reporters.

"Triangle is committed to addressing the problem and is working with community leaders to relocate the trucks at issue,” the company’s attorney said in a statement, adding that the company is searching for alternatives across the city.

“The length of the relocation process is unknown at this time but as the matter is being taken very seriously by all involved including Triangle, City Counsel [sic] members, and other community leaders, it is expected that the process will be swift," the attorney continued. 

“In the meantime, Triangle is taking all measures possible to minimize any negative effects of his business on the community."

Krasniqi explained to locals that the tar is brought from a facility in New Jersey in two trucks and then stored in Red Hook, according to those familiar with the meeting.

A third truck was also in use, but it has not been in operation since late 2012, the attorney said.

While some residents contend that Triangle is violating zoning laws by allowing the trucks to emit the odor, the city’s Department of Buildings currently has no complaints lodged against the site.  

Before the trucks are sent to job sites around the city, where they spend 50 to 75 hours a week, the tar is heated to roughly 500 degrees inside the truck. The intermittent opening of a release valve on the vehicle causes the smell of asphalt to spread into the air.

“All my clothes have been saturated by that stink,” said nearby resident Stefan, who declined to give his last name.

Residents said the meeting ended on a promising note and they were hopeful that the problem could be resolved. They plan to meet with company officials next week for an update on the issue.

Larry Licari, a partner at Rocky Sullivan’s, a nearby bar located at 34 Van Dyke St., said his customers could often smell the tar fumes during dinner hours.

Like local residents, the bar’s owners have been urging Triangle to mitigate the problem, he said.

“Who wants to smell tar?” Licari asked. “Unless you're going to make money off it.”