The next front in this battle appears likely to be the environmental cleanup at 250 Water Street, which has been designated a “brownfield,” because of contamination arising from former industrial uses of the site. In particular, the presence of mercury has been confirmed, as residue from one thermometer factory and three workshops once housed in the 19th century row houses that formerly occupied the block.
An HHC spokesman notes that the company plans to, “begin a comprehensive remediation of the site through the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program,” this year, and adds that, “we will continue to work closely with the community and are pleased that the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health have approved our proposed remedial action plan. We look forward to implementing that plan under State oversight and in close coordination with the community’s environmental consultant.”
But last December, an attorney representing Children First filed a complaint with the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), noting that “mercury was found in soil the site at levels 1000 times,” that agency’s soil cleanup objectives, and arguing that dredging up these contaminants would endanger students at the Peck Slip School and the Blue School, both of which are located across the street from the lot.
An HHC spokesman responds that, “there is simply no factual basis for this assertion, nor that the State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health would allow a remediation that would create such an effect.”
The Children First complaint urges the DEC to, “ensure meaningful, effective citizen participation for the public” in formulating a plan to excavate the site, and to require that, “the riskiest part of the cleanup itself, excavation of mercury hotspots [is] done when students are not in school, without creating nuisance conditions for residences.” The filing also cautions that, “DEC may not rush the remediation to meet the developer’s profit-driven timelines at the expense of human health and safety.”
HHC notes, however, that it has committed to remediating those hotspots only after the school year is over, and will finish that work before the start of school in September. An HHC representative adds that, “the brownfield cleanup program includes a public process with extensive opportunities for public comment. HHC and its consultants have held or participated in scores of public meetings on this topic, outside the official, required process, and agreed to numerous requests by community members for more time for public comment. Additionally, the community board and school have their own environmental consultants, who have participated extensively in the brownfield process, including commenting on the proposed remedial plan. Overall, there has been an extraordinary amount of public participation in this process, including in the development of the remediation plan.”
In a separate (but related) development, a coalition of public officials (including Congressman Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Mr. Marte, and CB1) have convened a working group on the environmental cleanup for 250 Water Street. In addition to the elected officials and the Community Board, the panel includes a broad range of stakeholders, including representatives HHC, DEC, the Peck Slip School and the Blue School, residents of Southbridge Towers, and representatives of the Seaport Coalition.
This evening’s Town Hall meeting begins at 7:00 pm. It can be accessed via phone at 646-558-8656 and via Zoom by browsing:
(use Meeting ID 828 7709 3194 and Passcode: 425234)