City Councilmember Robert Holden (D-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodside, Woodhaven) held a press conference Tuesday afternoon in Middle Village outside a site with lead-filled soil that he denounced as a community risk.
“To leave it uncovered is criminal,” he said. “To leave it uncovered across [a] school is even more criminal.”
The Maspeth native referred to the nearby PS/IS 128, just across the location at 69th Street and Juniper Valley Road. He warned that lead in the soil could spread based on the weather and affected students.
Holden explained he first heard about this from New York City Department of Design and Construction officials late last week. When he inquired on the status of a stopped sewer project at 74th Street, he was told soil found with “dangerous amounts” of lead were transferred to the site at 69th Street. He also recalled hearing no dump would accept the soil.
He expressed concern over the process as this information was not notified to nearby residents and demanded the at least four-month-old site’s shutdown.
The 30th District leader noted his confusion after hearing from DDC Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio that the levels were exaggerated. With a red flag in his right hand, Holden said at the press conference that there needed to be a clear answer from the agency.
“If anything is a red flag, it’s a commissioner telling me I was misinformed,” he said.
But DDC Spokesperson Ian Michaels said Holden did receive a clear answer regarding the soil when he spoke at length on the phone to Barrio. He was told that the soil had been tested and found to be non-hazardous, Michaels said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie explained there was no severe risk from the soil at the site.
“This soil has been tested and does not pose a hazard to students, school staff or community residents. We are safely removing the soil within the next week out of an abundance of caution,” said Lapeyrolerie.
Holden did praise de Blasio and shared he was in communication with the mayor’s office over the site. Following a series of conversations, the mayor promised Holden the site would be shutdown and workers would ensure the soil will be removed while students are not present. Moreover, nearby students would be tested for lead if requested.
Still the councilmember wondered what made the agency decide to leave soil in the ground and felt thankful warmer weather did not make the removal process worse.
Juniper Park Civic Association President Tony Nunziato echoed concerns from the City Councilmember over the process as it risked nearby community members.
“If a dump doesn’t want to accept it, then how can we have it uncovered and put it in our ground?” Nunziato said.
He elaborated that projects in Queens should be examined since the sewer project at 74th Street was not complete on time. This, he said, was a problem in the neighborhood.
A representative for State Assemblymember Brian Barnwell (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Maspeth) was also in attendance criticizing the site.