EnvironmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Report on Contaminated Peekskill Site Raises Eyebrows

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A recently discovered state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) report regarding contamination at a Peekskill property selected to be the new site of northern Westchester’s only homeless shelter has triggered calls to rescind a controversial rezone.

Several residents confronted the Peekskill Common Council at its March 13 meeting about a DEC assessment of 1070 Lower South St., which for many years was occupied by a recycling company that was cited by the agency for thousands of violations.

According to a Spill Report, the DEC investigated the site on Oct. 3, 2022, and found fill material with a slight petroleum odor. A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment was completed on Nov. 8, 2022 – 20 days before the council unanimously approved a zoning text amendment to allow transitional housing, an action that was necessary for the Jan Peek House, operated by Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CCHOP), to pursue a larger home.

On Jan. 17, LaBella Associates, the environmental consultant for developer Abraham Rosenberg, who last May initially presented plans to seek the zoning text amendment from the city for the site and other nearby properties in the M-2B Zoning District, requested the Spill Report be closed. On March 2, the DEC denied that request.

When questioned last week by speakers about that determination, Corporation Counsel Timothy Kramer responded, “We haven’t seen that. That wasn’t provided to us.”

On Thursday, City Manager Matthew Alexander responded to inquiries from Examiner Media, stating, “City officials were sent a report dated March 17, 2023, on March 13.”

Alexander further stated, “The City Council approved a text amendment for the M2-B Zoning District in the city. Text amendments are not site-specific. Once an application is submitted for a specific application, the City Planning Commission will thoroughly review the environmental impacts associated with that development.”

However, owners and tenants at the nearby Blue Mountain Shopping Center and others who have raised concerns about possible environmental hazards on the property questioned if the results of the DEC report were deliberately withheld from city officials prior to its Nov. 28 vote. They asserted any further deliberations on the project be suspended.

“As we have maintained all along, the site is not safe for human habitation,” said Joanne Landau, president of Kurtsam Realty Corp., owners of the shopping center. “We note, with moral and legal concern, that the applicant did not share this information during the hearings, which he is required to do by environmental law.”

Resident Wilson Huang implored the council to “hold him (Rosenberg) accountable and send a message that unethical behavior will not be tolerated.”

Attempts to reach Rosenberg for comment were unsuccessful.

Prior to the council vote last November, Mayor Vivian McKenzie remarked, “I understand the concerns that have been raised, and they were not taken lightly. I believe this zoning text amendment will better the city. All environmental concerns will be closely looked at.”

No councilmembers addressed any of the concerns raised at last week’s meeting.

“The place is contaminated,” resident Leesther Brown said. “Why in November were we told there was nothing we had to worry about? No one is against having a shelter. It’s just having it on contaminated land. Maybe you can look for it to go somewhere else?”

Another speaker said her mother, who lived on Lower South Street, died of cancer at the age of 36, one of several former residents in that area who reportedly died from the disease.

Besides constructing a two-story building to house the Jan Peek House on a vacant parcel opposite the BASF factory, Rosenberg is proposing to construct a three-story self-storage facility and a 10,000-square-foot building for a potential job training center or commercial venture.

Kenneth Stenger, an attorney for Kurtsam Realty Corp., has requested the council discuss the matter at a work session in early April.


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