Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lightstone Group's Gowanus Development Just Got More Expensive By $20 Million

Rendering of 363 and 365 Bond Street. by Lightstone Group

On September 9th, the Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 issued a statement regarding a proposed $20 million settlement with two subsidiaries of The Lightstone Group Development to conduct environmental clean-up on the companies 3.5 acre development site along the shores of the Gowanus, where they plan 700 units of residential housing.
 According to the proposed settlement, the companies, LSG 363 Bond Street LLC and LSG 365 Bond Street LLC, have agreed to conduct sampling, cleanup work, and other measures on their three parcels of land. They have also committed to removing 17,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil from those parcels.

From the EPA press release:
"Under the terms of the settlements, and with EPA oversight, the Lightstone subsidiaries will, among other actions:
*Conduct additional sampling to help determine additional source areas of contamination
*Remove an estimated 17,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil to facilities licensed to receive
the waste
*Construct a bulkhead to prevent residual contamination from spreading and to permit dredging
*Ensure that the project will not be a future contamination source to the Canal through EPA approval of sewage and storm water plans
More than a dozen contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals, including mercury, lead and copper, were found at high levels in the sediment in the Gowanus Canal. PAHs and heavy metals were also found in the canal water. PAHs are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage or other organic substances. PCBs were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment and their manufacture was banned in 1979. PCBs and PAHs are suspected to be cancer-causing and PCBs can have neurological effects as well.

The EPA finalized its plan to clean up the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in September 2013. The cleanup will include removing contaminated sediment that has accumulated as a result of industrial and sewer discharges from the bottom of the Canal by dredging. The dredged areas will then be capped. The plan also includes controls to reduce combined sewer overflows, and other land-based sources of pollution from compromising the cleanup. The engineering design work for the project is ongoing.

The Lightstone properties, which were re-zoned by the City of New York for residential use in 2009, were formerly used for a variety of industrial purposes, including oil terminals, dry cleaners, manufacturing and warehousing. Sampling has identified contamination at the properties, particularly Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs), PAHs and metals from historic operations, which needs to be cleaned up. The state Brownfields cleanup work addresses the land’s future use as residential housing; the EPA-required work will prevent the contaminants from getting into the Gowanus Canal.

The EPA has identified numerous parties that are potentially responsible for the contamination of the Gowanus Superfund site, including National Grid, the City of New York and other private and federal government entities. Lightstone has not been identified as a party responsible for the contamination at the Gowanus Superfund site based on provisions of the Superfund law designed to promote productive reuse of land that is, or may be, contaminated. In exchange for agreeing to the cleanup work announced today, the EPA has agreed not to sue Lightstone in the future for additional cleanup work related to existing contamination at the property and impacts to or from the Gowanus Canal."

The agreement can be accessed on the EPA web site here.

The EPA will accept public comments on the two proposed settlement agreements until October 8, 2014.

Good to know that Lightstone Group will have to do an even more thorough clean-up than under the agreement they entered with New York State's Department Of Environmental Conservation under the Brownfield Cleanup program.


Ben U. said...

Something is crooked here, although I can't figure out exactly what. As I sit here typing this, a noxious petroleum fume is wafting into my window from the 365 Bond site, which was supposedly already remediated -- this happens any time they dig in certain parts of the lot. So will Lightstone get a $20 million payment to then conduct the cleanup on their own, skimp on it, then pocket the rest? Is someone in the government / EPA getting kickbacks? This is all just conjecture, but this deal absolutely reeks of corruption.

Brien Rourke said...

Hmm. A "waterfront", high-end residential development on a Superfund site, where the "body of water" is a stagnant, fetid canal that brims with raw sewage in heavy rain? Perhaps the Brooklyn development frenzy has finally jumped the shark, though not even the most bad-@$$ shark could survive the mighty Gowanus. The poor door will be an underwater portal with a poorly maintained air-lock and a Purell dispenser that's always empty.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Ok. So start building on poison and poof 20 million suddenly materializes to do years of decontamination in a month or so? To coincide with foundation pouring? Purell indeed. What is wrong here?

Anonymous said...

a consipiracy under every rock? On one hand the EPA are the knights in shining armor and on the other they are involved in kickbacks.. amazing.

Mrs G said...

Greetings Katia,

Lemme get this straight. The EPA is going to let Lightstone not only build on the Superfund site, but to do the "clean-up" as well? Did I read this correctly? I'm no engineer, but shouldn't the EPA or another outside firm not related to the builder do the clean-up?

Katia said...

Hello Ms. G,
I am sure the EPA will work closely with Lightstone and the contractors. What is important to remember is that we will get a more thorough clean-up than we would have gotten if they were not involved.

Still say that we should not be building residential towers in this flood zone.

Marlene said...

First I want to thank the EPA for this undertaking which finally recognizes that this site contains far more contamination than was reveled during the environmental assessments which took place under the rezoning process. The problem here is not with the EPA, but with those who allowed for residential uses on this site, while playing down the extent of the contamination. The EPA doesn’t determine landuse matter, that responsibility belongs to the city and deBlasio for this site.

The only conspiracy I see here is that of a developer-lead (and financed) ULURP where environmental assessments avoided finding what many in the community had raised concerns about during the ULURP process.

The developer who financed the ULURP, Toll Brothers, withdrew their state brownfield cleanup application during the ULURP process, siting minimal levels of contamination. That was a few years prior to the EPA’s core samples taken from the site for their Remedial Investigation that discovered significant hazardous materials leaching from the site.

You can find on this blog, a video of the 2009 City Council land use review for this site, where the presence of hazardous materials were significantly played down in order to obtain a favorable vote for changing the land use from heavy manufacturing to one where people would be living. Were all parties who voted up this land use change given dependable information on hazardous materials and actions needed to make the place healthy for human habitation? If the EPA could identify these hazardous materials, why weren’t they recognized under the EIS work?

Toll dropped the site and now Lightstone, who is now working under the state brownfield program, is developing under the Toll Landuse changes. The DEC issues an approved cleanup plan which has been underway since the spring (work which has been fumigating the community with chemical and petrol-fumes all summer). Now, with this EPA proposed cleanup agreement, we find that there is a need to remove significant additional loads of hazardous materials form the site.

What if the EPA had never taken an objective look at this?

And how can the City and the State allow a non-objective party (driven primarily by profit motives) to run a ULURP and its EIS for a historical heavy manufacturing site where the developer wants to put condo’s up on? Where are the assurances of environmental safety in a process that allows this?

And with Lightstone working under the State Brownfield program, getting 25% tax credits towards the entire cost of the development, what are the NY State Taxpayers expected to contribute to the project with this additional cleanup work?

And why, oh why, should the developer be responsible and held accountable for any and all of their work and any problems that may result from the project into the future?

Anonymous said...

The text of the settlement states:

97. This Settlement Agreement in no way constitutes a finding by EPA as to the risks to human health and the environment which may be posed by contamination at the Property or the Site nor constitutes any representation by EPA that the Property or Site is fit for any particular use.

Margaret said...

not only a flood zone, but also a hurricane evacuation route. Dense residential on that property is criminal - remember Sandy evacuation?