By Rich Bockmann
The developers of the Flushing Commons project have opted into a city-run, environmental cleanup program after low levels of contaminants were found below Municipal Lot 1 — protecting them from future enforcement actions from city or state environmental agencies.
The mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation said the plan to remediate conditions at the site covers only the first phase of the Rockefeller Group’s $850 million development scheduled to kick off in March.
A 2006 investigation by Flushing Commons’ engineers found contaminants in the soil and groundwater below the parking lot at marginally low levels, but because they may pose safety hazards as construction crews excavate and dispose of about 178,000 tons of soil, the plan lays out guidelines for the safe handling of the soil.
The city’s voluntary cleanup program also offers Rockefeller the guarantee that city and state environmental agencies will not pursue enforcement actions that could delay construction schedules.
The mixed-use development will include residential, retail and commercial spaces as well as a 62,000-square-foot YMCA and 1,600 parking spaces.
In order to preserve the existing 1,144 parking spaces on the lot, the construction plan will see work done in two phases, with the first set to kick off in a few months at the southeast corner of the lot at the corner of Union Street and 39th Avenue.
Tests at the site found methyl tert-butyl — a gasoline additive commonly found as a pollutant in the city — the dry cleaning solution PERC and metals such as lead and nickel in the groundwater at levels nominally higher than the quality standards set by the state.
Lead was found in the soil at levels deemed safe for residential use but too dangerous to use in sensitive wetlands or as fill on farms.
While the source of the contaminants has not been determined, it is suspected it may have come from a 1-foot-thick layer of soil fill found below the pavement.
Construction plans call to dig down about 50 feet below the surface to make room for the underground parking lot, which is about 2 to 8 feet below the groundwater line.
A 1-foot-thick concrete slab at the bottom of the basement will be lined to keep groundwater out.
Excavation of the land is expected to last about four months.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.