A bill passed by the state legislature last week may force a controversial radioactive waste plant three blocks from a Williamsburg school to move from the neighborhood, but the company isn’t willing to leave without a fight.
Radiac Research and Environmental Sciences, a hazardous waste facility on Kent Avenue since 1969, could finally be compelled to relocate after the Senate and Assembly made it illegal to operate such a facility within 1,500 feet of a school.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Williamsburg), who sponsored the legislation, called the bill “a real victory for the North Brooklyn community and the safety of our children,” particularly students at PS 84 on Berry Street and S. First Street, just steps from the waste-processing site.
“No one wants to live next to a dump, let alone one that contains radioactive waste,” said Lentol. “It is appalling that the students in this community are going to school next to radioactive waste.”
But an attorney for Radiac vowed to challenge the bill’s constitutionality if it became law and urged Gov. Paterson to veto it.
“You can’t just take property without compensation,” said Thomas West, who has represented the industrial company for several years. “It is clearly unconstitutional, it doesn’t exempt grandfathered existing facilities and it is preempted by federal laws relating to the transportation of hazardous materials.”
The bill marks the coda of a 20-year campaign against Radiac, which processes medical waste from medical research centers, university hospitals, and city environmental agencies.
Students at Williamsburg’s El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice School helped Lentol draft the bill and even wrote a play last year, “Toxic Avengers,” inspired by the environmental campaign.
“We are poised to take a major step in reclaiming the safety and environment of our communities, especially, our school young,” said El Puente founder Luis Garden Acosta. “Our schools can, now, teach another ‘R’ — the right of North Brooklyn and all communities to peace and environmental justice.”
The company has not had any leaks or accidents that endangered the safety of its neighbors, but it has been recently named a terrorist target by the Department of Justice.
Calls to Radiac founder Art Green were not returned in time for our glowing hot deadline, but West elaborated that the company’s executives would consider moving if the state assisted them with “an intelligent plan” to assure the company would have the proper licenses and permits for a new site.
“We’ve got a lot of money and 40 years invested in that location,” said West. “Radiac is not going to move because Joe Lentol passes an illegal bill. It’s not going to be because of legislation, it’s because of offer reasonable under circumstances.”