Fort Greene

Neighbors: What’s under the ground at BAM Park?

Update: Downtown Brooklyn Partnership will oversee remediation of toxic materials

February 22, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An environmental report shows high levels of toxic materials in the soil at Brooklyn's BAM Park, and neighbors want to know who's going to take responsibility for remediation.
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The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is overseeing the renovation of a long-neglected city-owned park — dubbed “BAM Park” — at the intersection of Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue.

This is a welcome development for Fort Greene residents, since the park has been padlocked and unused for years.

Some neighbors are concerned, however, that toxic materials buried in the soil may require additional remediation during the renovation. High levels of contaminants were listed in the Geotechnical and Environmental Engineering study, prepared for the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership by Langan Engineering and Environmental Services. (The report is attached to the Partnership’s RFP.)

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Fort Greene resident Sandy Reiburn first grew concerned when she read the environmental study. The study said materials including pesticides, lead, mercury, arsenic, zinc and other potentially problematic compounds could be found in the park’s soil.

Reiburn sent the study to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), where it was analyzed by Science Director Stephen Lester. Lester found that even the limited sampling done by Langan’s engineering firm indicated evidence of toxicity.

As one example, the concentration of lead in one test pit was more than twenty times the New York state limit, he said.

In his conclusion, CHEJ’s Lester strongly recommended “that more testing be done at the BAM park redevelopment site to more accurately establish the extent of contamination present at this site. I also recommend at that a community safety plan be developed to address the potential public health risks posed by the proposed excavation and removal of the top 4 feet of soil.”

“An environmental investigative agency to monitor this seems warranted,” Reiburn told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“For decades the park has been ignored and chained up, preventing any benefit to the existing Fort Greene community,” Reiburn said. “While it is a welcome initiative, in a rush to restore it as a perk for the new luxury buildings going up, the last thing the residents, adjacent schools, theatergoers and pedestrians need is a ‘quick fix’ which ignores any subsoil endangerment.”

She added, “We are asking the NYC Department of Environmental Protection or the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to oversee the testing and remediation for the safety of the neighborhood. I may have missed it, but I see no reference to either agency’s oversight. Transparency is a must.”

The Fort Greene Association (FGA) has put the issue on the agenda for its March 14 meeting.

FGA has taken no position on the issue, said Acting Chair Richard Norton. “We are interested in creating a public forum where the issue may be discussed and neighbors informed,” he told the Eagle.

Despite its name, BAM Park (also called BAM Triangle Park) is not affiliated with BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music). While the site is being developed by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the property is owned by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

The developer, not HPD, is responsible for overseeing remediation, according to city sources.

HPD spokesperson Melissa Grace told the Eagle, “Any work that will be conducted at BAM Triangle Park must follow all federal, state, or local environmental, health and safety-related laws.” 

UPDATE: Downtown Brooklyn Partnership spokesperson James Yolles told the Eagle on Thursday that the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership would take ownership of the remediation.

“While this land is owned by the city, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership will oversee the hiring and work of a construction management firm, which will perform any needed remediation in accordance with all city, state and federal laws prior to the construction of the park,” Yolles confirmed.

“We are eager to move forward with what we think will be a fantastic community resource,” he added.

When completed, the park will be managed by the city’s Parks Department.


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