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Sunset Park cries foul after smell causes school evacuation

On Friday, December 5, over 60 students and adults from P.S. 24, 427 38th Street, were evacuated following numerous complaints of a potentially dangerous and putrid odor spreading throughout the area.

According to Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, both the NYPD and FDNY immediately treated both children and adults. After the evaluation, no one required hospital attention. The odor was said to have originated from the Jackie Gleason MTA Bus Depot at Fifth Avenue and 36th Street.

“Every month, the bus depot undertakes an oil separation process, where they separate oily water from the waste water that is used to clean the buses,” said Menchaca. “This process is designed to ensure that no oil enters our sewer systems. Early indications suggest that the fumes were from that process, and the MTA halted their work immediately after receiving word from the FDNY.”

Executive Director of Sunset Park Restoration (SPR), Tony Giordano explained that complaints about the fumes, although not said to be toxic, were ongoing.

“For the next two days, we kept getting remarks from local residents that this has been a problem for years but seems to have gotten worse the last few weeks,” he explained. “A former school crossing guard said that this has been going on at the school for years and the FDNY has been called numerous times and the bus depot is well known as the source of this odor.”

Giordano also said that other people in the area have complained for years about feeling nauseated from the smell.

Although FDNY officials confirmed that the fumes were not toxic, Menchaca and Sunset residents continue to be concerned by the ongoing issue. The depot, he said “is an open-air facility, and we are working closely with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and our community partners to understand the air quality impacts associated with this process. If the MTA is unable to ensure that they’ve met all of the legal obligations around zoning and air quality, we will need to think about alternate locations for their work.”

Giordano added that SPR has sent letters to Menchaca and Community Board 7 regarding the situation. “We’re asking that they investigate and find out if this is a regular occurrence or was this instead an accident?  Also what chemicals comprise the gas?  We have also asked them with the help of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to investigate the impact of this on the community through air testing in the coming months.”

“Sunset Park is a vibrant community with a mix of industrial and residential uses, but one that cannot tolerate the risk of noxious fumes that have the potential of harming our neighbors,” Menchaca said.

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