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CB6er wants state review of Ikea’s Red Hook site

The Brooklyn Paper
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A motion by a member of Community Board 6 to have a state environmental agency evaluate property slated for an Ikea home furnishings store in Red Hook was rejected and sent back to committee.

The vote, at the March 9 full board meeting, came after Chairman Jerry Armer told Red Hook board member Lou Sones that a letter requesting review of the site could be sent to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) without board approval.

The Swedish furniture giant’s development of a mammoth store with additional retail space on a shipping and graving dock on the Red Hook waterfront that includes several Civil War-era buildings, has already been issued 19 violations by the city Department of Environmental Protection, including a new one this week, releasing asbestos into the air by way of illegal demolition of buildings.

The DEP’s Environmental Control Board is expected to rule on whether Ikea was at fault in releasing the asbestos and what if any fines should be levied, at a public hearing April 1.

Sones’ motion to have the board draft a letter asking the DEC to test for further contaminants was rejected, said the board’s manager, because it would be redundant.

“That would be effectively the board asking the agency to uphold the law that they’re required to file,” said CB6 District Manager Craig Hammerman.

“Our chairperson said that would be done,” he added, and a letter would be drafted and sent this week.

Sones insisted it was not the same thing. The difference, he said, is that rather than having the DEC review existing reports filed by Ikea about site contaminants — reports that were proved false by the levels of asbestos found in the demolition — the DEC should do its own thorough examination.

“The DEC has to do a full investigation and analysis of what asbestos was there,” said Sones, who has been an ardent opponent of the plan to build the big box store on the Erie Basin at the end of Columbia Street since it was first announced last year.

“Because Ikea did their own study, and they knew there was so much more asbestos than they claimed, we cannot trust it,” he said.

The board’s promise to issue a letter, he said, missed the mark.

“The point is not to have a dialogue with the DEC or to express concern. It is to suggest it is now required that they do a full inspection,” Sones said.

“When this community board passed Ikea, we did it with the understanding that when Ikea comes, and they screw up, then they’ll come before the board and answer to us. Well, they’ve screwed up and they haven’t even come yet,” Sones admonished.

While Armer insisted the motion should be referred to the board’s Health, Public Safety and Environment committee, another board member interjected.

“I’m assuming it’s on the floor and I’m going to speak against it,” said William Blum, of Carroll Gardens. “It seems this agency is responsible to do whatever they’re supposed to do, and I’m not about to tell an agency what to do.”

But land use committee co-chair Ernest Migliaccio pointed out that since Ikea had applied for the state brownfields program they’d be entitled to financial assistance in paying for remediation of the development site.

“I don’t think this is simply a matter of enforcement by the DEP; Ikea has made certain representations to the state to get a certain amount of money. The fact that these applications may be falsified puts it squarely into the matter of money, and that’s why it should go back to the committee,” Migliaccio said.

Though Armer suggested inviting DEC and DEP representatives to the next public safety and environment committee meeting — the committee meets Monday, March 28, at the St. Mary’s Residence at 41 First St., between Hoyt and Bond streets — at press time it was unannounced whether either agency would be present.

Gabrielle Done, a spokeswoman for the DEC, told The Brooklyn Papers that the agency would review aspects of applications, or conduct their own land studies, if an application was in question of being faulty.

“If it is brought to our attention,” she said, “yes, we can investigate a site.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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