Perhaps the highlight of the three-hour-plus public hearing for the proposed on the GM waterfront were the slides illustrating the significant changes over the decades on the site itself.
What in 1800 was farmland – Beekman Farms – was actually mostly water. Starting in the 1900s, the bay started getting filled by whatever questionable materials were available (ash, 'aggregate'). By 1974 the land achieves the angular reach it has today, nearly touching the lighthouse once off in the distance. Then comes the slide with which we are all too familiar: the concrete wasteland we have now (plus weed trees).
Following the release of the investigative findings for public consumption, the DEC and other officials connected with the brownfield clean up project (Arcadis, the consultant for GM; the state Department of Health), made their presentations and entertained comments on the actions to come. But, as citizens learned, the so-called “public approval” stage of the process does not really require public approval at all. Comments that come in writing or verbally at the hearing will be put into consideration “but the DEC is the final arbiter of the Decision Document,” said DEC Attorney Nathaniel Barber.
A common theme in the comments was the sizable gap in the presentation between the two supposed remediation scenarios – either one nearly billion dollar operation both on land and in water to dig up the whole mass and return it to “predisposal conditions” (deemed pie-in-the-sky impossible); or the (relatively) cheap, at around $10 million, and easy alternative.
This involves letting the already-done Interim Remediation Measures stand as good enough; doing some additional minor river sediment dredging surrounding one former outfall post where a future fishing pier might be at the edge of Ichabod's Landing; and letting the future property owner inherit the easements, mitigation demands and engineering requirements on the land.
Many citizens objected to it being narrowed down to such extreme options – “a little shallow” said one woman – while a Riverkeeper representative, among several others, was seeking an extension on the about-to-end public comment period in order to analyze the 1,500 pages that hadn't been made easily accessible. (Comments close on March 30).
“Who among us has had time to review the documents?” asked Environmental Advisory Council Chair David Bedell. No one. But a better question might have been: who among us would read that much even if they were given more time?
The Village had representation from lawyers who said they “support the selected remedies” with some stipulations including that contaminated materials be removed by railcar and that GM remains “secondarily responsible."
A letter read by newly reminted Trustee Karin Wompa on behalf of Mayor Ken Wray (who had to go to the Planning Board meeting on a night dense with meetings across both villages), requested that the funds the village will be awarded for damages by GM, some $875,000, be put towards either an aquatic education center at the or the restoration of the Pocantico River that used to flow through the GM lot. (Another citizen vote came later for the Pocantico idea).
One 40-year-resident, Mario Bellanich, was the only voice of contentment in a room of much discontent. He had worked for GM for many years and said he still had a full head of hair, the trees are growing on the site, lead is not dangerous. (Public murmurs against this one). “Whatever they did so far,” he said, “is more than enough.”
The consensus seemed to be that citizens, while eager to move forward and enjoy the economic boon of tax dollars and business the development will bring, were uncomfortable swallowing the lowest possible remediation level.
DEC officials warned that the cheapest scenario was all GM would agree to do, since they are not beholden by law to do anything in an brownfield area with no measurable health risks. GM is only interested in doing what they have to do to sell a property worthy of "restricted residential" as planned (i.e. not individual homes but common ownership units where people aren't gardening on their own plots). “If we dispute this, we will lose and then the remedy will be nothing,” warned Jim Moras, previous DEC project manager for the site.
Barring any possible comment extensions, the decision document will most likely come in early April (at the library, Village Hall, here on Patch when made available) with the river sediment work slated to begin as soon as six months to be done in about a year.
To submit comments are read the proposal click on the NYSDEC site HERE.