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Syosset Park site to be independently tested, developer says

Community members came out in large numbers to

Community members came out in large numbers to a public hearing May 1 to discuss the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Syosset Park development. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The developer of a proposed mixed-use housing and commercial project in Syosset has embraced independent testing of the former landfill at the site in response to community concerns.

Syosset Park Development LLC — made up of Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group and Manhasset-based Castagna Realty Co. — wants to build 625 town houses and condominiums, two hotels, a 30-acre park, stores, offices and restaurants at the former Cerro Wire site and adjacent town landfill.

Area residents have called for independent testing of the Oyster Bay Town-owned landfill, a capped former Superfund toxic waste site, to ensure it is safe.

“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,” Charles Davis, Jr., Simon Property Group senior vice president of development, said in a news release Wednesday.

The residential and commercial buildings would be constructed around the landfill, which would become a park. Davis said in the release that the developer would pay for the cost of testing “so long as it doesn’t compromise the independent nature of the testing.”

The landfill is still owned by the town because the 2013 sale to the developer has not closed.

A private firm, Melville-based H2M Architects, Engineers, Land Surveying and Landscape Architecture, conducted preliminary radiological tests around the landfill in April and May.

That report stated, “No radiation readings were detected at the former Syosset landfill site that were above the assumed typical annual average exposure levels of radiation.” The report found one spot on the site that had higher levels of radiation.

At Tuesday’s town board meeting, area residents told the board they wanted independent testing.

On Thursday, Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino declined to talk about the independent testing but issued a statement through spokesman Brian Nevin that residents had spoken “loud and clear” about their desire to have the landfill tested independently.

“The health, safety and welfare of our residents is a top priority for my administration and the town welcomes the developer’s offer to pay for the costs of independent testing,” Saladino said in the statement.

Oyster Bay councilwoman Rebecca Alesia said in an interview Thursday that she was “relieved” the developer was in favor of more testing.

“The community has expressed very resoundingly, loudly and clearly that they need further testing to be able to live with this project,” Alesia said. Alesia said she hoped the developer and residents would agree on the next step for additional testing.

Eric Goldstein, an attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy organization, said hundreds of former superfund sites across the country have been repurposed as parks, preserves or golf courses.

“It’s the ultimate success of the superfund program if the site can be cleaned up and returned to a beneficial community use, but protecting human health must continue to be the number one priority,” Goldstein said. Speaking about such sites generally, Goldstein said it was critical to have continual monitoring of air, water and soil.

“Usually for these kinds of facilities there’s a comprehensive maintenance plan to ensure that the public is protected from whatever residual contaminants remain,” Goldstein said.

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