The Town of Yorktown was issued a violation last month by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for leaving hazardous materials buried on the site of the former Holland Sporting Club in Mohegan Lake.
DEC Region 3 spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach confirmed Thursday a notice of violation was issued to the town “within the past two weeks” but was unable to provide a specific date or details. Rosenbach said Yorktown was ordered to remove a lot of the remaining debris that wound up in the foundation of some of the 14 dilapidated buildings that the town’s Highway Department tore down last summer.
A crew of highway workers was on the property Thursday and Friday morning but fled the scene immediately after Yorktown Councilman Vishnu Patel, who has been questioning the environmental integrity of the land and has been regularly in contact with the DEC, and a reporter visited the premises.
“What are they hiding? This has to be done right,” Patel remarked. “This is very sensitive land there. I care about the environment. My mission is to clean it up. All I care about is the taxpayers.”
The Town Board gave Highway Superintendent Eric DiBartolo the go-ahead last year to fill 49 trash bins with 304 tons of debris that was gathered from ripping down the buildings, some of which dated back to the 1920s. Supervisor Michael Grace has repeatedly touted the estimated $60,000 savings to the town utilizing town employees instead of outside contractors but Patel said there is a price to pay when environmental safeguards are ignored.
“Being penny wise and a pound foolish is a big problem,” Patel said. “They’re going to pay the price on this one because they have to clean it up.”
Former Supervisor Susan Siegel said when the Town Board voted a few years ago while she was still in office to seek outside contractors it was convinced the job was too much for the Highway Department.
“When it was touted that they saved money, they didn’t save money because they didn’t do the same job,” said Siegel, who has announced her intention to challenge Grace in November.
Grace contended Thursday he had not seen any paperwork from the DEC regarding the violation, saying he was only advised by DiBartolo about it. He also maintained the DEC only acted because Patel was “rattling their cage.”
In addition, he explained the wood chips that were used to fill seven feet deep holes where the buildings foundations were only intended to be a temporary measure and would be replaced with clean dirt the town will receive from the state Department of Transportation.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Grace said. “I was there when the DEC inspected it and they didn’t seem to have any problem with it.”
When asked why highway crews would bolt from the property when visitors arrived, Grace remarked “I wouldn’t read much into it. They may have had other things to do.”
The future of the Holland Sporting Club site is expected to be discussed during a Town Board work session on April 9. A recent proposal to build ball fields there was soundly denounced by residents, and not recommended by the town’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Council.