Greenburgh Site's Environmental Cleanup To Take Months

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From left, Woodard and Curran representatives Anthony C. Catalano and Aaron Townsley present their environmental fieldwork of the Frank's Nursery site to the Greenburgh Town Board.
From left, Woodard and Curran representatives Anthony C. Catalano and Aaron Townsley present their environmental fieldwork of the Frank's Nursery site to the Greenburgh Town Board. Photo Credit: Samantha Kramer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Representatives from Woodard and Curran, the environmental service agency hired to look into issues at the former Frank's Nursery site on Dobbs Ferry Road, said it could be months before Game On 365 is able to begin construction of a sports complex at the location.

Several contaminants have already been found on the site, which will prompt the team to collect additional soil and groundwater samples from the abandoned nursery, said Anthony C. Catalano, Woodard and Curran's senior vice president.

Their fieldwork, which they said found a fuel oil spill and semi-volatile organic compounds that could contain carcinogens, will weigh into Woodard and Curran's presentation of their findings to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

After consulting with the DEC, the company will begin its remediation efforts, Catalano said.

"The DEC will look at corrective action in coordination with future plans," Catalano said at a Greenburgh Town Board work session Tuesday morning. "That's the approach we're looking to take here - looking to get enough information so we can formulate smart solutions."

Catalano said they expect to finish their additional collection of samples by February, but that it could take at least four months before the DEC decides how it wants to proceed with the site. Nevertheless, he assured the Town Board that the steps they were taking to make the site usable for a sports complex were necessary.

"You're doing exactly what should be done," he said.

No cost estimations were offered by the company, however, and the Town Board may also have to look into conducting a separate air-monitoring study. The Woodard and Curran team has so far only investigated ground contaminants, Catalano said.

According to their lease with the town, Game On must pay up to $125,000 that will apply to site investigation and remediation efforts. This money will be reimbursed to Game On in the form of rent credits, according to the lease. If remediation expenses exceed $400,000, Game On can opt out of the lease.

Game On Project Manager Martin Hewitt attended the meeting and said he was a little concerned that a number still hasn't been set for total cleanup costs. But Hewitt said he's confident Woodard and Curran will work with the town to ready the property for the planned Westchester Field House.

"Woodard and Curran have a stellar reputation," Hewitt said. "I have full faith they'll do the right job."

Catalano added that the property is designated as a Brownfield site, which may make it eligible for reimbursements from the Environmental Restoration Program. Under the program, the state could reimburse the town for up to 90 percent of on-site costs.

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From today's Edgemont Community Council Facebook Page:


The environmental consultants that the Town has hired to study the contamination at the former Frank's Nursery site on Dobbs Ferry Road, which the Town has agreed to lease to a startup company to construct athletic facilities for children, yesterday said cleanup costs are unknown at this time and would only be determined after consultation with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The news that the cleanup costs are unknown was a sharp rebuke to the representations made by the town attorney throughout the summer and fall, when the lease was being considered, that total study and remediation costs were not expected to exceed $100,000.

An engineer for Woodward & Curran, the consulting firm, told the Town Board at its work session that based on the studies it has completed thus far, and based also on the Town's intended use of the site for both indoor and outdoor athletic fields for children, it is much too early to say how much the clean up of the site will ultimately cost Greenburgh taxpayers.

Residents had accused Town Supervisor Paul Feiner of deliberately withholding publication of the consultants' Phase II report documenting their discovery of cancer-causing carcinogens on the site until the November weekend before a town-wide referendum on whether the Town should approve the 15-year lease Mr. Feiner had proposed for "Game On," a startup company that wants to build the athletic fields.

The referendum was approved by a substantial margin, although it was defeated in Edgemont, where word of the environmental findings was widely publicized.

The consultants yesterday said that indoor athletic fields would probably be less problematic for environmental remediation than the proposed outdoor fields because they believed indoor fields would be constructed over an impermeable seal to prevent the carcinogens in the soil from leaching and thus causing children to be exposed. The same could not be said, they said, for the proposed outdoor fields unless a similar impermeable seal was also placed where the fields are to be built.

Under the terms of the 15-year lease that Mr. Feiner committed to, town taxpayers will now have to foot the bill for the installation of these impermeable seals as part of the property's remediation costs so that "Game On" can build its fields.

The consultants yesterday said they were aware of the multimillion dollar costs of remediation that were being proposed for the athletic fields in Briarcliff Manor where athletic fields were constructed over untested landfill containing carcinogens which have been blamed for causing fatal cancer in several children over the past few years.

However, they assumed that the cost of the remediation would not be as high for the Frank's site provided the athletic fields were indoor-only. They were unaware until yesterday though that the "Game On" proposal also called for the construction of outdoor fields.

The consultants yesterday also said there would be additional costs involved in testing for airborne contaminants at the site, which has not been done. A residents suggested at the Town Board meeting on November 14 that there might be airborne contamination from dust and other particles that could affect neighboring properties now and during any construction or disturbance of the ground.

The consultants also strongly recommended yesterday that the Town not approve Mr. Feiner's suggestion to lease the Frank's property in the interim, while the environmental studies are underway, to a company that wants to park cars and trucks on the site because of the risk of further contamination of the property, particularly in the absence of any approved stormwater management plan.

In an unannounced town board meeting on November 1, the town board had approved an additional $69,670 to conduct more investigation of the Frank's site, this bringing the total cost thus far of the study to more than $113,000. A tape of the November 1 meeting was broadcast on the Town's cable channel, but was not made available, as is normally the case, on the Town's website.

The town attorney this summer had assured residents the investigation and remediation of the site would together cost no more than $100,000. Residents had accused the town attorney, who has no expertise in environmental matters, of playing politics with children's health, in order to support Mr. Feiner's stated goal of getting residents to approve the lease.

In approving the additional $69,670, the town board's resolution said a portion of the money would actually be used for remediation. In fact, the only remediation proposed at this time was the removal of a leaking underground storage tank which would have cost another $22,000 that the town did not approve spending.

Under the terms of the proposed lease that voters were asked to approve, Game On agreed to pay the first $125,000 in investigation and remediation costs. Game On has agreed to front the second $125,000 of such costs, subject to a reduction of its rent in that amount, and the Town agreed to spend up to $150,000 more, for a total cost of $400,000.

If costs exceed $400,000, either party has the option of terminating the lease in which event all monies paid by Game On would have to be refunded.

Residents can view the town board work session yesterday on the town's website.

Isn't is sad that the public has to depend on the public to learn the facts?
All of this information has always been available to The Daily Greenburgh yet it falls upon Bob's shoulders to put it in front of the public.
Nice job, Bob.

What should be mentioned too is that just conducting the studies will take months more to conclude. Whatever remediation and funding to complete the job will bring the start of construction to more like a year or more from today.

And then there's the little matter of changing the Zoning and obtaining a height variance and...addressing the other requirements of a SEQRA review -- all the things that would normally be done BEFORE any lease would be signed.

Which doesn't stop Feiner from hitting the replay button on his newest (and oh so similar) distraction: another nursery seeking to avoid environmental review by playing have your cake and eat it too.