Officials and College Point residents are looking for answers after fuel-contaminated soil was found and left unreported at the Linden Place Project of the College Point Industrial Park.
Dr. James Cervino—a College Point marine pathologist and Community Board 7 (CB 7) member working as a consultant on the project—uncovered the contamination on a recent trip to the site.
A dug-up portion of a runway previously used by the former Flushing Airport revealed visible pools of fuel in the soil underneath. Workers in the area were wearing face masks for protection, and Cervino said that several of them had reported feeling ill.
Cervino then alerted the contractor and on-site engineer for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of his findings.
“I did what I was supposed to do, thank God, and I reported it,” Cervino said. “The engineer was very upset and said, ‘You’re going to stop this project if you report this.’”
According to Cervino, CB 7 and local civic groups had received multiple reports from College Point residents regarding a smell of petroleum believed to be related to the ongoing projects in the College Point Corporate Park.
When he contacted the community board to follow up on the issue, he was alarmed to find that the contaminated soil had still not been reported. It was at this time that he contacted state Senator Tony Avella for his help in calling attention to the issue.
“It was pretty crazy, and it’s unfolding as we speak,” Cervino said at a community board meeting Monday.
Avella held a press conference on Monday near the site to address the issue, and said public safety should not depend upon the conscience of a lone whistleblower. He demanded that the EDC halt their project pending an investigation and answer the allegations.
“To knowingly conceal petroleum-contaminated soil and repurpose it use throughout the city is utterly disgraceful and borders criminality,” Avella said. “EDC has shown that it is willing to expose people to a substantial health hazard, if it means preventing a delay on their project in College Point Corporate Park.”
In a statement released to The Courier, an EDC spokesman said that the organization was investigating the claims of contamination.
“We are working closely with the Department of Environment Conservation to assess the area and determine if additional needs must be addressed in our mitigation efforts. In the meantime, no work is ongoing on this portion of the site.”
The NYCEDC manages the College Point Corporate Park on behalf of the City of New York.
According to the EDC website, the College Point Corporate Park contains more than 200 companies and 6,000 employees in various industries. These include The New York Times’ printing plant and other firms involved in office operations, light and heavy manufacturing, construction equipment suppliers, printing, distribution and retail.
The reconstruction of Linden Place began in spring of 2009 and the street is currently open to traffic today. Portions of the area at 132nd street are still under construction.
Linden Place road connects from 28th Avenue to 23rd Avenue, providing direct access to the Whitestone Expressway and will alleviate traffic flow within the park. The planned extension of 132nd Street will connect 20th Avenue and Linden Place and will also help to alleviate traffic.