Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, D-Greenburgh on Friday called on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to take a more proactive role in cleaning up the contamination at the former Frank’s Nursery on Dobbs Ferry Road in Hartsdale.
On Wednesday, DEC spokeswoman Lisa King told Tax Watch the state was in a holding pattern on the site because the DEC believed that the contamination had not spread from the seven-acre parcel. She said it was up to the town of Greenburgh, which owns the land, to commence talks with the state when it wanted to move forward with redeveloping it.
Voters on Tuesday approved a 15-year lease with Game On 365 LLC, which plans to install an 80-foot-high sports bubble with more than 2 acres of floor area at the former nursery. The company also plans to build an artificial turf soccer field behind the bubble.
A 500-gallon oil spill, which occurred in 2001, has yet to be cleaned up.
“It’s time to wake up DEC and have the agency become more proactive,” Abinanti said. “DEC needs to prevent health hazards from lingering and force landlords to remediate. They should have done it earlier with Frank’s, and the agency should be working with the town to work out a plan.”
King did not return phone messages seeking comment.
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner, however, said it’s too soon to meet with the DEC over the contaminated site. He wants to wait for the results of the $70,000-study that the town’s consultant will embark upon soon. After that study is completed, Feiner said the town plans to present it to state regulators, to determine how best to clean it up.
“We want to make sure we are doing it right,” Feiner said. “I’m going to reach out to the DEC to make sure they have a comfort level. We will discuss the remediation that they would feel was appropriate for the site.”
Such remediation could prove costly for the seven-acre site, which the town acquired for back-taxes in 2011. The Briarcliff Manor schools want to spend $2 million to comply with a consent order for fields covering 2.6 acres that were put in over construction debris.
State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said she spoke with DEC, which told her a site like Frank’s is not a priority at this time because the town has yet to move forward with its redevelopment project.
“The DEC gets 16,000 reports of contaminated sites a year, and they have to assess the public health impact,” she said. “They pay attention to sites that pose a public health or environmental hazard.”
The town’s engineering firm has discovered that there’s contamination both in the site’s soil and the groundwater beneath the surface. The site borders a wetland under the high-voltage power lines. Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, Ithaca, NY, said that the site’s proximity to the wetlands raises concerns.
“When you have contamination adjoining a wetland, then the potential for migration to the wetland is very very high,” Hang said. “Closing and capping the site is a good thing. But you have to make sure the contamination is sequestered from further migration.”
He also urged the DEC to get cracking to get the site cleaned up.
“It makes no sense to not get moving on the remediation,” he said. “It’s beyond stupidity. It’s like you have a house on a fire, and the firemen say that there’s no worry because the fire will burn itself out. The minute you have identified contamination, there’s a requirement that it be remediated. Eleven years is too long.”
Once the town receives its report, Feiner said he plans to talk to the state about obtaining state financing to help clean it up through its Brownfield’s clean-up program.
But Hang warned that the town shouldn’t count on the fund.
“There’s not much money there,” he said. “It has been inadequately funded for years.”
Photo: Greenburgh activists Dorrine Livson and Bob Bernstein discuss contamination at the former site of Frank’s Nursery Wednesday. The town plans to lease the site for a sports complex. Ricky Flores/The Journal News