Thursday, May 21, 2009

City Buys Property Eyed for High School

Paid $16.25M for Restaurant Depot Site

By Conor Greene

The city has purchased the Restaurant Depot site in Maspeth, paving the way for the Department of Education to move forward with plans for a 1,100 seat high school, despite opposition from local civic groups and elected officials.

It appears the city was forced to pay top dollar for the 54,000-square-foot property, located at 74th Street and 57th Avenue near the Long Island Expressway. While the property had been listed online for $15 million, the city paid $16,250,000 to owner Lucky Star Elmhurst, LLC, according to a transfer report filed with the state.

This week, a DOE spokesman was able to confirm the purchase, but was unable to comment on the price. After being sent a copy of a Segal Realty flier advertising the property for $15 million, William Havemann responded in an e-mail, “I can’t comment about the details of our negotiations to acquire the property. All I can do is confirm the purchase price of $16.25M.”

The City Council voted 38 to 10 in April to approve the DOE’s plan for a 1,100 seat high school on the former Restaurant Depot site. The approval came despite opposition from local civic groups, the community board and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who voted against the plan but was unable to garner enough support from her colleagues to block the proposal.

Since the vote, it has been revealed that the site is contaminated by the presence of some toxins, including mercury. The DOE says that the $80 million budgeted for the project includes money to install a protective barrier between the contaminated soil and the building foundation. The city recently issued a request for proposals for this project and will open bids on June 12 for demolition of the existing structure and construction of the new building, according to Havemann.

Meanwhile, Crowley’s office has asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to “give a third party determination regarding the need for remediation” at the property. “Several community members, professors and scientists have expressed serious concern over the levels of toxins located at the site,” she wrote in a May 5 letter to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis.

“The SCA has proposed laying down a protective seal and installing a ventilation to assure the safety of our children, but I am concerned that it may not be enough and we are just ignoring a need that will need to be addressed eventually.” She requests a “thorough review of the full Environmental Impact Statement to determine if the SCA needs to enact a full remediation… in order to assure that our children are going to school in the safest possible environment.”

Crowley is still awaiting a response from the DEC, according to her spokeswoman. However, Middle Village attorney Thomas Ognibene, who recently said he will challenge Crowley in November, said Tuesday that he is considering filing a lawsuit against the city to block the project.

“I’m very concerned that it is an inappropriate site with possible health hazards,” he said. “There is a lot of action you can take [to block it], and what I can do is sue the City of New York and the School Construction Authority, which is one thing I’m contemplating now and moving in that direction.”

1 comment:

Niccolo Machiavelli said...

Ognibene is grandstanding. Liz put up a good fight and may actually win some improvements but the city's demand for school space was just too great. The lawsuit only raises taxes, thank Tom.