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Toxic Soil at BAM Park Needs More Testing, Concerned Locals Say

 An environmental study shows toxic materials buried beneath BAM Park, which is being renovated by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
An environmental study shows toxic materials buried beneath BAM Park, which is being renovated by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
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Courtesy Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

FORT GREENE — The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is being urged to conduct additional testing of the soil at BAM Park during its renovation after a study showed the presence of toxic materials buried beneath the site.

A 2012 study conducted by Langan Engineering and Environmental Services shows high levels of contaminants such as arsenic, mercury, lead and pesticides buried in the soil beneath the park, which is being redeveloped by the partnership.

The levels of chemicals found in the soil, which contains demolition debris such as metal, plastic and lumber, exceed state soil cleanup objectives, the Langan report found.

The study came to light after the partnership attached it in its October 2015 request for proposals looking for construction management companies to redevelop the triangular park, located between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton and St. Felix streets.

Fort Greene resident Sandy Reiburn said she was disturbed by the findings in the Langan report, so she sent the study to the non-profit Center for Health, Environment and Justice for further evaluation by Science Director Stephen Lester. 

In a report sent back to Reiburn, Lester said the sampling done by Langan was limited, and that further testing is needed.

“As a result of these limitations in the testing conducted at the site, additional testing is needed to better characterize the extent of contamination at the site,” Lester said.

Lester’s report states that some of the materials found in the soil are considered to be probable human carcinogens and can pose a number of health risks, including damage to the skin, developing brain, and pulmonary, renal, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems.

“I also recommend that a community safety plan be developed to address the potential public health risks posed by the proposed excavation and removal of the top 4 feet of soil,” Lester said.

A spokesman for the partnership said it will handle any necessary fixes to remove toxic materials from the site.

“DBP and its selected construction management firm will be responsible for any remediation related to the construction of the park in accordance with city and state regulations,” said spokesman James Yolles. 

Reiburn has asked DBP to conduct additional testing before a remediation plan is set in place.

“In order to know what the remediation is you need to know what’s in there to begin with,” Reiburn said. “In essence, there was not appropriate testing, so when you test something like that, based upon what you find is how you’re going to fix it, so if you don’t really discover all of the toxic contaminants, you might not remediate it in the appropriate way.”

Andrew Kalish, director of cultural development at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, said at a Monday Fort Greene Association meeting that a remediation plan could not be developed until a construction management company is chosen for the project.

“The construction management company, once they are selected, it’s their responsibility to conduct any testing that is required of them as per all the laws that are put upon any project like this,” he said.

Kalish said DBP would make resident safety a priority.

“We have every desire to make sure this project is done safely and all the people who live and work and come and play and go to shows and go to school, kids that live here, are protected adequately. I don’t think there’s anything that we desire to do to upset that,” he said.

Kalish said the group would choose a construction firm in the next few weeks. DBP hopes to break ground at the park by this summer. 

The park site was previously occupied by row houses that were demolished between 1982 and 1986 to make way for construction of BAM Park. But the park was closed in the last 10 years due to crumbling infrastructure such as cracked walkways and rotated brick ledges.

DBP has been working to reopen the park after taking over the project from the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Local Development Corporation.

Once construction is complete, the Parks Department will take ownership of the park, which is currently owned by the city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development.