Alienation of Parkland for Pipeline Rejected in Yorktown

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A resolution to alienate open space on Stony Street in Shrub Oak to allow for the construction of a natural gas pipeline that could lead to the development of two all-purpose fields and a full-size baseball diamond on the Granite Knolls site did not pass the muster of the Yorktown Town Board last week.

The four members of the board, who voted last month to seek permission from the state Legislature to allow a portion of parkland for a different purpose, were deadlocked over a clause in a temporary agreement with Spectra Energy that called for a permanent loss of one acre for an industrial pipeline cleaning procedure that councilmen Nick Bianco and Vishnu Patel felt could pose a health and safety threat to residents.

“My problem is with the material that is taken out of there,” Bianco said. “I will not sit here and vote for that launcher and receiver and then some kid gets hurt and it will be on my conscience. I’m not going to do it under my watch.”

Patel, a retired IBM scientist, explained the residue taken out of the pipeline contains uranium and radon, the second leading cause of cancer.

“There’s three things you can’t hide: the sun, the moon and the truth,” Patel said. “Pipelines can blow up. I want to know what cheese is attached to the mouse trap?”

The Spectra/Algonquin Energy natural gas pipeline project would have a 42-inch transmission line run underground from Pennsylvania to Maine, including a connection from Verplanck to Stony Street. Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace explained Spectra approached the town about utilizing some land on the Granite Knolls parcel for a temporary construction and staging area.

In exchange, Spectra would construct an access road from Stony Street to the land designated for fields and a 114 space gravel parking lot. The Granite Knolls site was acquired by the town for $2.7 million following a public vote several years ago.

“We have an opportunity when they do the project they will need a point of operation. Granite Knolls is a convenient location for them. The town will be able to benefit by Spectra building the ballfields,” Grace explained to a Town Hall audience packed with parents and children. “There is no compromise of health and safety. Nobody is putting your children on fields with carcinogens and toxins. Get that out of your mind.”

Councilman Terrence Murphy noted pipes for the existing pipeline already run through Legacy Field in Yorktown.

“The scare tactic that this is going to poison our kids is absolutely absurd,” Murphy remarked. “There’s fields already up there (Granite Knolls).”

Resident Babette Ballinger did not agree with Grace and Murphy, saying “It’s idiotic. It’s outrageous. It’s about protecting our children. They’re not willing to look into anything. They just want to take the easy way out. It’s irresponsible.”

Bianco said he believed the pipeline project was necessary and had no issue with the temporary alienation of about four acres for a contractor’s storage area and equipment yard.

After the resolution failed, Grace asked for support for the town to begin the environmental study process for constructing fields at Granite Knolls, which he received in a 3-1 vote, with only Patel opposing.

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