In his quest for Congress, Councilmember Vincent Gentile vowed that, if elected, he would curb construction on the controversial Gravesend Bay waste transfer station and look into deeming the location a Superfund site. Now that Republican Daniel Donovan, former Staten Island district attorney, has snagged the 11th Congressional District seat, the South Brooklyn pol is calling on him to do the same.
“Some candidates will bring up issues on the campaign and then, win or lose, you never hear about it again. That’s not something I do,” said Gentile who, at an April 23 forum for candidates seeking the seat, redirected a conversation about cleaning up Staten Island’s Great Kills Park to the high concentrations of toxic chemicals – among them mercury and Mirex – sitting at the bottom of Gravesend Bay, adjacent to where the waste transfer station is now being built. “This is something that needs to happen for our community and as our newly elected congressman; it’s up to him to help make this a reality.”
Donovan is opposed to the facility, according to Spokesperson Jessica Proud, who told this paper, “The dump is a city proposal that Councilman Gentile voted in favor of. Dan was one of the key officials instrumental to getting the Fresh Kills Dump closed, and as congressman he will work closely with local officials to determine the best course of action to try to halt the project.”
Gentile acknowledges that he voted in favor of the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP), which included the facility in 2006; however, he says neither he nor his colleagues in the council were ever informed of the site’s environmental instability.
“While the first stages of construction are underway, further construction will necessitate stirring up these extremely dangerous and deadly chemicals and reintroducing them into the local environment,” said Gentile. “Suffice to say, this is not in line with the plan I voted for back in 2006 and if this information had been presented to the City Council in 2006, I would have voted against the entire plan.”
Had he been elected to Congress, Gentile said during the campaign, he would have “immediately push[ed] to put this project on pause,” at the time adding, “Once the project is halted, I will work together with the community to explore declaring this area a federal Superfund site.”
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a Superfund site is an unsupervised or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people. Once a location has been designated a Superfund site, the EPA may identify parties responsible for its hazardous conditions and force those parties to pay up.
“I think that since Mr. Donovan won the congressional seat he has a responsibility to serve his constituents and to become involved in the issues that are important to them,” said local resident and environmental activist Ida Sanoff who, on Sunday, May 2, joined elected officials in calling out the Department of Environmental Conservation for being far from scrupulous about ensuring the containment of debris, as required by the project’s special permit. “As Assemblymember Colton found, construction crews have already violated some of the terms of the special permit. I’m hoping that Donovan will really get involved with this.”
Assemblymember William Colton, who has been leading the charge against the waste transfer station as he led the charge to rid the site of the illegal incinerator that once stood there, agreed.
Calling the WTS plan, “An ill-thought-out and dangerous plan,” Colton noted that efforts to stop it, “May include asking the federal government and the EPA to halt the work while it explores whether this site should be treated as a Superfund site. But an even more important strategy is to expose the violations of the existing permit conditions being committed by the city and its selected construction contractor.”
Colton, and others, agreed that local politicians must work together to dump the dump.
“The bottom line here is that we’re dealing with some of the worst toxins known to mankind,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger – a longtime opponent of the project – citing also the confirmed presence of World War II-era explosives on the floor of the bay. “It’s evident to me that we’re going to need Washington on our side, and a congressmember to really step up and help the community, and act on behalf of the safety of the residents of South Brooklyn.
“Campaign season is over and now it is time to serve,” he went on. “We need to work together with Donovan to make sure that he is fully briefed on this entire matter. We are looking for more than just words. We need action, and we need leadership. That has been the missing piece in this fight – a fiery member of Congress who will fight for us, and against this project.”