Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

Construction crews are currently working on the College Point Police Academy project near the Whitestone Expressway, but civic leaders said the city has not lived up to promises about handling contaminated soil on the site.

The NYPD’s new digs will eventually consolidate many training facilities from around the city into an1.8-million-square-foot academy in the College Point Corporate Park.

A consultant for the city has determined that the soil at the project site is made up of contaminated fill material further tainted by petroleum spills.

The city and its contractors are following state regulations to reuse some of that contaminated soil as fill material on the site, but members of Community Board 7 contend they were told all the contaminated soil would be removed.

The NYPD disputed that claim, saying that no specific measures were discussed prior to CB 7 giving the green light.

In a 2009 environmental impact study on the site, a consulting firm hired by the city confirmed the widespread presence of metals, including arsenic, incinerator waste and semi-volatile compounds. Lead, PCBs and other toxic compounds were found in isolated areas along with contaminates accumulated from nearly 100 years of dumping leftover construction debris on the site, which is roughly between College Point Boulevard, Ulmer Street and 28th Avenue.

CB 7 unanimously approved the project in 2009, but according to board members they were told by the NYPD that all excavated contaminated material would be taken away.

“They promised the community that all contaminated material would be removed,” said James Cervino, an environmental expert and board member, who spoke on behalf of CB 7. “They told us at the meetings that they were going to remove the material.”

But a 2010 plan drawn up by the city Department of Design and Construction indicates that much of the soil dug up at the site will instead be stored in large piles and then reused on the site, unless it exceeds a certain level of toxicity. Eventually, the entire site will be capped with 2 feet of clean soil or an impervious medium like asphalt or concrete, according to the plan.

Inspector Terrence Riley, of the NYPD, said he was at all the meetings and never heard mention that all contaminated material would be removed from the site.

“It was never specifically discussed and we are certainly doing whatever is necessary for the safety of the community as well as the employees,” said Riley, who added that he had reached out to CB 7 after hearing from TimesLedger Newspapers.

Contaminated soil removed from construction sites in New York state may be subject to regulations surrounding solid waste, but the soils can be exempt from those regulations if they have a beneficial use on site, according to state regulations.

In this case, that beneficial use is to reuse the fill by putting it back into foundation holes, which would minimize truck traffic and in a sense recycle the soil, which is what Turner/STV, the contractor hired by the city, is planning to do, according to the DDC plan.

But board members said that is not what they signed up for and want the offending earth removed.

“On other residential or commercial jobs, they would get in trouble,” Cervino said. “It’s shocking. They promised the community that what comes out of the hole will be removed.”

The academy site will eventually include classrooms, dorms, training facilities, a museum and parking for cadets.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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