The Gravesend Bay waste transfer station was the focal point of an emergency press conference on Sunday, May 3 at the Bay Parkway promenade, hosted by Assemblymember William Colton and Councilmember Mark Treyger – two elected officials who had no problem airing out the city’s dirty laundry when it comes to its construction.
“The state and the city cannot just wash their hands of this site and say the construction company can do what it does,” said Colton, stressing that, with more than 50 residents volunteering to be part of his Neighborhood Watch over the construction, his office has caught the construction company, Prismatic Development Corporation, red-handed, breaking its special permit conditions on more than one occasion.
“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is well aware that there are significant environmental hazards within this site, and so they put special conditions in the permit,” environmental activist Ida Sanoff explained, “but here we are at the beginning of the process and, thanks to some ordinary citizens, we found out that they are already violating the conditions.”
According to Sanoff, DEC has been far from scrupulous about ensuring the containment of debris, as required by the permit. Resident-submitted photos show instances in which no safety net surrounded construction cranes or the site in general, to prevent potentially toxic debris from entering the ocean. In addition, mounds of debris have been left uncovered overnight and on weekends, making it possible for refuse to travel freely through the air and, on windier occasions, even create a “dust bowl” effect.
To boot, Sanoff said, the independent environmental monitor who is supposed to be on site at all times has yet to be seen by local residents.
“Where is he or she?” she asked. “I certainly do not know.”
Resident Mary Placanica said, upon taking photos of the site, she was harassed by workers. “The construction workers verbally abused me,” Placanica said. “They called me every name under the sun.”
This instance, Colton asserted, is particularly telling.
“If the construction company is not following all the strict conditions in that permit that are supposed to protect us – and we don’t even think those are adequate – then the environment of this area is going to be seriously and permanently damaged,” he said, citing the high levels of mercury, dioxins and mirex – a pesticide banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1976, and used to kill ants at the old illegally-operated Southwest Brooklyn incinerator – buried deep within the floor of the bay.
“We have federal leaders who claim to believe in science,” said Treyger. “Well, I encourage them to look at what science says about building a garbage dump in this area because it says this is one of the worst environmental decisions in the history of New York City.
“The concern we have is that, when you unearth the most harmful toxins known to mankind, couple that with any type of coastal storm, and it will not just be water people have to clean out of their homes,” he went on, also citing the confirmed presence of World War II-era explosives on the floor of the bay. “We are not only calling on the city to halt this work, we are demanding a new environmental review of this entire project and I do not want them to use the same environmental consultants that got us in this mess in the first place.”
Since the waste transfer station was proposed as part of the 2005 New York City Department of Sanitation Solid Waste Management Plan, the administration has been going off “faulty” reviews, according to Treyger.
“These are the consultants that left out all these toxins and never knew there were bombs in the bay; the ones that said this project was safe,” he said. “We’re demanding some respect for southern Brooklyn, our fair share and our environmental justice.”
Neither Prismatic Development Corporation nor DEC responded to a request for comment.