Developer, Town Of Oyster Bay Embrace Independent Testing Of Syosset Site

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Chuck Davis (right), senior vice president of development for Simon Properties, gives a brief statement after the last speaker at the May 1 meeting at Syosset High School. At left is environmental lawyer Barry Cohen, representing the developer. In front of the two men is the massive Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The meeting was called for the public to comment on the DEIS. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

On May 1, hundreds of residents crowded into the Syosset High School Auditorium to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the massive Syosset Park development. Located at the corner of Miller Place (Long Island Expressway service road) and Robbins Lane, it calls for 625 rental units, retail and office space and even two hotels on 92.8 acres.

With the toxic history of the site, which encompassed both an old landfill and industrial site, many residents demanded independent environmental testing before the Oyster Bay Town Board gave the go-ahead and any construction began. A change.org petition calling for such testing has garnered 846 signatures.

The developers heard the message, for on May 23, Charles Davis Jr., Simon Property Group senior vice president of development, made the following statement:

Syosset Park has worked for five years to develop a plan that evolved from the community and that the community can embrace, one that is not only environmentally safe and sound but that enhances the value of our neighbors’ homes while helping the school district and town with new sources of much-needed revenue.
Like our neighbors, we want to be certain the groundwater and soil on this site, as well as the gas emitted from the town’s landfill, is safe as we meet our unwavering commitment to protect human health and the environment throughout this process. As a result, Syosset Park fully embraces the concept of independent testing to make sure that our proposed development project will not adversely impact the environment or the health of the surrounding community and the people who will come to live, work and play at the property. We’ve heard that message and endorse it.
We recognize that there are costs associated with this testing, and we are prepared to bear those costs so long as it doesn’t compromise the independent nature of the testing. We all want to be assured that credible, and truly independent, individuals are leading this effort and that the integrity of this testing is beyond reproach. The community, which has spoken loud and clear on this point, deserves no less.
We recognize there are other issues, including the impact on the local schools and the best use for the town’s former landfill. We are prepared to work with the neighbors and school district to address their concerns, while our plans for the town’s former landfill are intended to make the property better for local residents. But it all starts with independent testing. We endorse this idea and fully support our neighbors’ calls for action.

A site plan of the proposed Syosset Park shows the mixed use development. (Contributed Photo)

Town Joins Call

With plans for proposed development before the Town of Oyster Bay, Supervisor Joseph Saladino and the town board announced on June 18 plans to move forward with independent environmental and health testing of the former Syosset Landfill site, Department of Public Works site and former site of Cerro Wire Manufacturing in Syosset. The town will accept the developer’s offer to fund independent testing and analysis.

Saladino stated, “Over the past few months, the town board has listened to concerns voiced by the community in regards to proposed development in Syosset and, in particular, environmental concerns regarding the former Syosset Landfill and Cerro Wire sites. The town will settle for nothing less than independent testing that adheres to established quality control standards, and the methodologies and protocols set forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and both state and county health departments. Residents deserve to be part of the process, receive precise and verifiable test results, and any independent testing performed must also demonstrate strict compliance with all applicable regulations and industry standards. Irrespective of the extensive historic testing at these sites, the town’s unwavering commitment to facilitating additional testing will be completed and done so with unprecedented transparency.”

New York State General Municipal Law prevents municipalities from issuing a professional services contract without some level of open, public competition. To ensure independence and operate within the law, the Town of Oyster Bay is seeking agreements with the  EPA,  the DEC, New York State Department of Health and the Nassau County Department of Health to develop and administer a testing program. Such an agreement will allow for the payment of services to be provided through funds supplied by the developer to offset costs associated with the additional independent testing and analysis. All regulatory agencies will be requested to review and approve work plans developed for this testing program as they promulgate testing standards and sampling procedures based on professional experience of experts, available technology and public input. The very objective of the independent testing is reliability, transparency and the inherent ability to withstand verification tests and scrutiny.

“The town is eager to accomplish the objectives requested by our residents, and we hope that elected government officials offer a similar commitment to developing this independent testing plan and ensuring all environmental and health regulatory agencies play an integral role in this intricate process,” added Saladino. “Similar partnerships between regulatory monitoring agencies have helped protect our residents for decades and this concerted effort will help ensure thorough and comprehensive testing of potential hazards.”

The town made the following statement:

The town board remains steadfastly committed to facilitating additional testing and analysis to further clarify existing conditions; however, the presumption that historic testing on and off-site was inadequate and/or performed without third party oversight and scrutiny is a false claim that has infiltrated the fabric of our community.
Residents who are unaware of the extensive testing of environmental parameters on and off-site may take some comfort in the myriad testing and studies performed to date.
Additionally, the town has been in frequent contact with the EPA and DEC. The DEC recently notified the town of plans to proceed—at no cost to town taxpayers—with radiological screening at the former Syosset Landfill site. This is yet another reason why the town recommends that the DEC take a leadership role in the proposed independent testing program development protocol, so that there is consistency, accountability, and a clear line of communication for the additional independent testing performed at the site.

—Additional information provided by the Town of Oyster Bay and Syosset Park

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