Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

The development of a prime piece of waterfront property in Whitestone set to house 52 homes has hit a bureaucratic snag preventing construction, while a lawmaker has raised questions about illegal dumping at the site.

A 7-acre piece of real estate, at 151-45 6th Road, has sat vacant for years while toxic soil was being removed from the site.

An environmental company recently finished replacing the dirt as part of a state program designed to clean up contaminated property, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

But the company, Barone Management, remediated a strip of land belonging to the city that was within the boundaries of the property, according to DEC.

The mixup has caused a delay in development, since the owner of the property needs to hammer out an agreement before it can complete the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

“Unfortunately, placement of the environmental easement has been delayed while the applicant and the city of New York resolve an outstanding issue of property ownership,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a June letter to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

The property was initially slated for development in 2008, when a real estate firm called Bayrock Group wanted to build 52 single-family homes on it. But Bayrock went bankrupt and the property was turned over to Capmark Finance in a foreclosure proceeding, according to city Department of Finance records. It has remained vacant ever since.

The property was entered into the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program under the auspices of the DEC, but officials have publicly wondered what exactly was dumped on the grounds.

In a letter to the DEC commissioner, Avella called into question dumping activities at the site.

“I have been informed that dumping of contaminated materials occurred after the remedial cleanup work took place at this site,” Avella said in the letter.

TimesLedger Newspapers has also received complaints about dumping at the property.

Barone Management contacted TimesLedger Newspapers to comment on this story as the paper was going to press, and any further developments will be reported in a subsequent story. The DEC inspected the site as recently as Aug. 1 and said it found no evidence of illegal dumping, which is the same conclusion an inspector from the city Sanitation Department reached last year.

Restoration & Conservation Environmental, a firm specializing in cleaning up contaminated properties, worked with Barone to provide soil at the site, according to another letter sent to the DEC by the head of the company.

When contacted about complaints related to the dumping, the company’s head, James Cervino, said he only used untouched soil unearthed in Manhattan and has logs tracking it on its journey to Whitestone.

Cervino also sent a letter to Martens indicating that his firm ceased oversight on the property in June 2011, a year before the process unofficially ended.

“The disposal of soil activities that have occurred since then were not under my environmental management,” the letter said.

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

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