By Naeisha Rose
Concerned citizens, civic leaders, and a bi-partisan coalition of southeast Queens’ community leaders and their representatives called into question the environmental hazards that the scrap metal TNT recycling site at 154-20 Tuskegee Airmen Way in Jamaica may pose.
The community leaders and residents are demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Protection Agency and elected officials conduct an investigation of the operation of the facility, the chemicals used there and the toxins generated. They also want soil samples collected and examined to determine the side effects that pollutants from the site may have on the air, water, soil, and sewer systems.
“You have people who are living directly across the street from this facility and if the air is polluted, the wind is blowing right into those rooms,” said Pastor Phil Craig of the Greater Springfield Community Church. “We are asking the city to investigate [this facility] for the health of the people.”
Joe Concannon, a Republican candidate running against City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), tried to give advice to the residents who lived near the facility in Council District 28.
District 28 represents Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill, South Jamaica and South Ozone Park, while District 23’s parameters include Queens Village, Little Neck, Hollis, Glen Oaks, Bayside and other neighborhoods.
District 28 has had no representation since Councilman Ruben Wills was arrested and convicted on corruption charges in July.
“I would ask the community to get involved with their local community board,” Concannon said. “Talk with the police council on a regular basis to get some of the concerns addressed or call 311 and speak about all the observations you have made.”
One angry resident did not care for the candidate’s recommendations. He said he reached out to police and was referred to the mayor’s office and told to call 311. The man said nothing happened and called Concannon’s advice “baloney.”
“If they are not listening to you, go over to your elected officials and let them know what is going on,” said Concannon. “If they are not listening to you, get the people on your block and organize them.”
Minister Andre Broady of Genesis Transitional Housing Ministries Inc. wanted everybody to focus on the health problems, like asthma, that residents say they have been developing, and find solutions.
“We need to get our local representatives to focus on the environmental impact,” Broady said. “We don’t want to continue with the extreme abundance of waste transfer stations here.”
After learning of the closure of some auto repair shops in Willets Point to make way for the development of a multibillion-dollar residential and retail project in the northeast Queens neighborhood, Katherine James, a longtime resident and community leader noticed more cars being sent to the Jamaica waste facility.
“I’ve been in this community forever,” James said. “I saw stacks of cars several feet high and it surprised me. Willets Points [auto shop] is closing and I supposed this is where they are bringing their wares. It dawned on me it’s the development at Willets Point.”
Anthony Rivers, the former Democratic candidate who was running against City Councilman I. Daneek Miller, was also at the event.
“There is a doctrine by the city called doing our fair share,” Rivers said. “If you read that doctrine, you would see how unfair the city has been in placing these types of facilities on the south side of Queens.”
He cited similar problems at another waste facility on Liberty Avenue two miles away from the TNT station.
“Once they are placed here, there is no oversight and that is the biggest challenge,” Rivers said. “They have no mystifying system to keep the odor down, they don’t encapsulate the building, they don’t have any purification inside the building and this is problematic to the air quality of which they have to deal with.”
Queens Borough president contenders Everly Brown of the Homeowners NYCHA Party and William Kriegler of the Republican Party were there.
Kregler a former fire marshal for Hazardous Material Company 1 and an environmental crime investigator, agreed with Concannon on community activism.
“I can get elected to office and be your watchdog,” Kregler said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose