“Don’t hide behind the FOIL process…”
“Peekskill taxpayers have a right to see the total contents of the report immediately”
Comments of Tony Washington
Candidate for Peekskill Mayor
November 4, 2011
My running mates and I are here today at this barren site on Lower South Street to bring to the public’s attention some disturbing news concerning the real cost of cleaning contaminated land that the Administration of Mary Foster purchased from the Ginsberg Development Corp (GDC). This land was originally to be part of a lower South Street Redevelopment plan that the Administration of Mayor John Testa had worked on with a great deal of public input.
As you have heard debated many times over the past few years, had the plan moved forward as conceived by the Testa Administration, today, there very well may have been a Target and other retail establishments on the very parcels over my shoulder. However, upon taking office in 2008, the Foster Administration immediately shelved the plan they inherited and nothing……not the hundreds of thousands in sales tax receipts……not the hundreds of new jobs that would have been created……nothing at all has happened on lower South St……nothing, has happened except for the City deciding to become land speculators with the taxpayer’s money.
Just over my shoulder, there are 3 parcels of contaminated land that run contiguous with one another that are now owned by the taxpayers of Peekskill courtesy of the Foster Administration. Rather than work with developers who would keep title to the parcels, the Foster Administration recklessly gambled $9.8 MILLION of Peekskill taxpayer money to purchase the land they had no valid reason to buy…land that for years had been used for activity that made it ripe for contaminants. In fact, when Karta operated their business on just some of this property, they were cited with 4,500 DEC violations in just 3 years.
We can agree to disagree with the Foster Administration on the wisdom of not moving forward with the Testa Plan. However, it is inexcusable for public officials to use taxpayer dollars as if it were play money and make irresponsible decisions without giving a single thought to what the consequences of those decisions may be.
We have seen a copy of the Preliminary Remedial Cost Analysis that was conducted for the City well AFTER the Purchase had been completed…the two parcels that are the subject of the report are commonly referred to as the “Upper Karta Property” and the “L&L Property.” By sheer coincidence I’m sure, the report is dated October 25th, one day AFTER the last City Council Meeting before the Election. How convenient!
The TECTONIC company, an environmental engineering firm, concluded in their study that the cost of remediation was not $2 Million as some of us had been led to believe …no, this detailed analysis determined that the initial cost of remediation for just these two parcels will be over $4.1 MILLION!! It’s very clear now why the Foster Administration didn’t want the public to see the report before the election. But the story doesn’t end here. The report goes on to say that the possibility of, “groundwater contamination is yet to be addressed” and recommends a number of additional tests on the two sites which will cost an additional $70,000 or more to complete. Once all tests are completed, the sad truth is that the property will cost more to clean it than the taxpayers originally paid for it!! This transaction is akin to the City taking a walk near a cliff with a blindfold on…one would think they’d be smart enough to remove the blindfold before taking the first step.
At the last City Council meeting the Mayor pooh-poohed questions about when the long awaited environmental study would be available. Now we know why a straight forward answer was not forthcoming and how this Administration is not interested in being upfront and honest with their constituents. They are withholding the report from public view until after the election. Peekskill taxpayers have a right to see the total contents of the report immediately since they are now on the hook for the cost of the purchase AND the environmental remediation.
The sad story here is that the Foster Administration has now put the taxpayers of Peekskill in harm’s way. Besides the two properties that this report addresses, they have paid another $6.0 MILLION for the third parcel. The Mayor claims that any environmental remediation costs will be deducted from that purchase price. That is not the case here with the parcels bought from GDC. Even if the costs of the 3rd parcel are reduced from the sale price, Peekskill is now in the chain of ownership of contaminated property due to the Foster Administration and that could end up coming back to haunt us in the future, well after the final sale has been completed.
So, here is the scorecard…The Foster Administration paid just under $10.0 Million for 3 pieces of highly contaminated property. We now know, well after the property has been closed on, that the taxpayers are on the hook for more than $4.2 Million in environmental remediation costs on 2 of those parcels that will not be reduced from the sale price that has already been paid out. And, the Administration is hiding the report that details the problems that the City is now responsible for.
These are numbers that should frighten even the staunchest supporters of the Foster Administration. When all of this is totaled up, what the Foster Administration has done with this recklessly irresponsible purchase is to put the Peekskill taxpayers in line to absorb a fiscal, if not environmental, disaster. The fact that City Hall has been mum on a report they had been quizzed about just 11 days ago, adds to the outrage. We call on the Mayor to not hide behind the FOIL procedures which will take weeks to run its course…release the Tectonic report now for all to see.
The reports can be obtained from City Hall or Tectonic…Tectonics’ phone # is (800) 829-6531.
For Information or questions,
Contact: Tony Washington