Jan. 24, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
The controversial siting of a public school near a toxic site in Greenpoint will not be changing course, according to the city’s Department of Education, in an announcement that comes after years of neighborhood concerns over the location, and despite ongoing efforts by Council Member Stephen Levin to have the school relocated.
The K to 8 school, planned as part of the Greenpoint Landing megaproject, has long been fixed to rise on the southwest corner of Dupont and Franklin Streets, across from the former NuHart Plastic site at 280 Franklin St.
The NuHart location, itself slated for a two-tower development and with some preliminary work already underway, is contaminated underground with two types of dangerous toxins that have begun seeping away from the site, but have not reached the school.
While the former plastics plant and state Superfund site is set to undergo a massive cleanup prior to its imminent development, fears of the future school’s proximity to the location has prompted locals and elected officials, especially in the last year, to call for a relocation of the school.
But the DOE, despite these calls, told the Greenpoint Post earlier this week that the school will rise on site as planned.
“We are working closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and receive regular updates on their progress with the remediation plan for the NuHart site,” a DOE spokesperson said.
The agency’s statement, however, came as a surprise to Levin, who told the Greenpoint Post on Tuesday that the School Construction Authority, the agency in charge of building schools, has been receptive to the idea of changing the school’s location.
“They feel that the site is safe and clean and they don’t believe it’s necessary,” Levin said about the SCA and school siting. “That said, I’m exploring and seeing what’s possible.”
The council member, who has been scouting possible new locations since October, at the least, and has held community meetings with the DEC and Assemblymember Joseph Lentol on the toxic site’s cleanup and school plans since July, says it has not been an easy feat.
“It’s a challenge because it’s a large site and we have to find another one in Greenpoint where the developer is willing to have a school,” he said.
When reached for comment, however, the SCA directed the Greenpoint Post to the DOE and said “they are the appropriate people to contact” on the project.
The DOE’s statement also comes two weeks before a scheduled public meeting, arranged by Levin’s office, on the relocation of the school near the NuHart Plastic site.
Levin says he has invited representatives from the SCA as well as District 14 Superintendent Alicja Winnicki to attend the Feb. 7 meeting, which will be held at Dupont Senior Housing.
The SCA and DOE have not confirmed whether they will be attending next month’s meeting.
The upcoming meeting also follows a letter sent by North Brooklyn Neighbors, a community advocacy group that has long fought for the school’s relocation, to the SCA earlier this month.
The group, in its letter, made yet another push to have the school moved away from the toxic site.
“Siting a school in such close proximity to a hazardous waste site sends the wrong message to the children of District 14 about how the City prioritizes their health and environment,” NAN’s Jan. 3 letter, obtained by the Greenpoint Post, reads.
The February meeting is the latest to be held on the school’s siting and toxic site cleanup, two separate developments at a crossroads.
Plans for the school date back to 2013, but the school’s construction was put on a five-year hold due to concerns about the NuHart site, which has been designated as a New York State Superfund site since 2010.
The delay was meant to allow for time to improve the safety condition of the NuHart site and clean up the ground there, with the SCA agreeing to hold on to the $45 million to build the school. The Park Tower Group, which is developing Greenpoint Landing, also agreed to hold on to the school location and start no construction.
But the NuHart location across the street has undergone different ownership since with little to no cleanup in between. All Year Management, which purchased the site in 2018, is now gearing up to do a full environmental cleanup of the site as part of work on its 325-unit project.
A spokesperson for All Year Management previously told the Greenpoint Post over the summer that construction was expected to start in January of this year, with the buildings expected to be completed in 2021. Demolition filings, however, have yet to be filed for the former plastics building.
The cleanup, which requires DEC-approved methods and mitigation efforts, is expected to take multiple years, and is anticipated to begin in 2019 after the DEC gives the greenlight on the cleanup plan.
A timeline for the school’s construction is unclear.