DEP Looks To Expand Rockaway Facility
The Department of Environmental Protection won community board support this week for its plan to expand its water pollution control plant in Rockaway despite concern over who will clean up hazardous material at the site.
Members of Community Board 14 voted 2:1 in favor of the DEP proposal to purchase 311-315 Beach 104 Street – a vacant lot abutting Beach Channel Drive with an abandoned catering building on its southern end – for the construction of a new two-story office building, parking lot and electrical substation.
In documents filed with the Department of City Planning the DEP says their current administrative facility is “cramped” and does not meet many city, state and federal building requirements. The acquisition would not be used to increase the DEP’s 45 million gallon per day (MGD) capacity at the existing plant, according to Kevin Clarke, DEP Bureau of Environmental Engineering Executive Project Manager. The plant treats an average of about 22 MGD, according to the DEP documents.
At issue is a potentially hazardous amount of zinc and iron that was discovered in one of the soil mounds on the site. The DEP, which has not entered into a land sale agreement, wants the owner, Meyer Chaim Greenbaum of Brooklyn, to agree first to safely remove the material, clear and fence the property and secure the old catering hall before the agency takes possession, said Clarke.
CB14 member Vincent Castellano recommended a more aggressive approach: The DEP should leverage the hazardous materials cleanup against the owner of the property to either make sure it’s thoroughly cleaned or bring the purchase price down.
“He’s got the DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] problem. Let him deal with it,” said Castellano referring to who owns the land. “This property has some marketing issues!” Castellano added. CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, meanwhile, warned that there has been other commercial interest in the property and that the DEP could jeopardize their plan to expand.
In all, nine representatives from the DEP attended the community board meeting on Tuesday, November 9. Community board approval is a preliminary step in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) required when any site is selected for a capital project. Next, the proposal will go before Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. Work could begin in 2007 and could take 10 years to complete, according to Clarke and others.