Update: Bronx Zoo rep thinks lizard’s fake

The Department of Conservation said this lizard won’t be able to survive long in the cold. (Photo by Valerie Nilsson)

Update: We showed the photo of the lizard to a source at The Bronx Zoo who believes it is a fake due to the way it’s positioned.

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier in the week, Valerie Nilsson, a woman walking through Stuyvesant Oval spotted what appeared to be some kind of lizard in a patch of grass. However, the three-foot-long creature appeared to be so still she wondered if it was a toy or prop someone had put there as a prank. Later noticing it was gone, she posted a photo she took of the lizard on the local Facebook group Stuyvesant Moms to ask if anyone else had seen it.

So far, no one had and Stuyvesant Town management has said no one has reported it as a missing pet.

Town & Village sent the photo to the New York State Department of Conservation, where a spokesperson said based on the photo it appeared to be a Monitor Lizard in the Varanidae family of lizards.

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Con Edison will pay $636G in settlement from East River oil spill

Oct3 Con Ed and Stuy Town

Con Ed’s East River substation south of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As a result of a transformer malfunction at a Con Ed substation that caused 30,000 gallons of insulating oil to leak into the East River last May, the utility has entered into a settlement with the state, and will be paying $636,015 in damages and penalties.

As part of the settlement with the Department of Environmental Conservation for violating of New York State Environmental Conservation Law, Con Ed will also be required to continue the cleanup effort. The company will also be expected to assess the petroleum containment compliance at its 13 waterfront substations located throughout the boroughs.

The May 7, 2017 incident happened at the utility company’s Farragut Substation in Brooklyn, with the DEC and the U.S. Coast Guard quickly descending on the scene in Manhattan and Brooklyn to try to minimize the contamination of the river. While the substance, dielectric fluid is similar to mineral oil, as opposed to petroleum, it was still foreign to the East River. Following the leak, booms were placed in the water and absorbent pads were placed along the shorelines where much of the fluid had seeped.

The settlement payout will go towards funding for local environmental and restoration efforts. Out of the $636,015, $100,100 will go to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy for its water-based environmental education and kayaking programs, and $71,000 in natural resource damages to New York City Audubon for its Governors Island common terns nesting project. The remaining $464,915 will go to the New York State Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund (Oil Spill Fund), New York State Conservation Fund, and the State General Fund.

“At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York continues to prioritize improving and protecting the State’s waters,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The funding that came out of DEC’s enforcement action and penalty against Con Edison highlights the positive investments that can be made after an unfortunate event. Settlement investments through DEC’s Environmental Benefit Projects Policy will improve and restore the environment and natural resource damages funding serves to make the public whole.”

In response to the settlement, which the DEC announced on Wednesday, Allan Drury, a spokesperson for Con Ed said, “We are pleased to have resolved issues stemming from this incident and to support valuable environmental programs.”

Drury added that there was “no long-term impact” to the East River as a result of the spill. “The cleanup process mentioned in DEC’s announcement relates only to what is left of the spill on Con Ed’s substation property, not in the river,” he said.

After asbestos confirmed, investigation continues in Flatiron

July19 Expolsion info at 22nd Con Ed

Con Ed employees accepting bagged clothing at 22nd Street and Broadway (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

In the wake of Thursday’s steam-pipe explosion, the city has confirmed the presence of asbestos. Sixteen inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection have been tasked with investigating the presence of any asbestos in nearby buildings while the site of the explosion is also being monitored.

On Friday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality health advisory for the whole city through 11 p.m. The agency’s warning noted that active children and adults as well as anyone with respiratory problems reduce “prolonged or heavy exertion” outdoors.

The public is still being warned to stay away from the immediate area, where there are still emergency crews at work.

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Steam explosion in Flatiron shuts down nearby streets

By Sabina Mollot

Emergency responders are still trying to find out the cause behind an early morning explosion in the heart of the Flatiron District. The blast occurred at 6:40 a.m. on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, sending a massive gray cloud shooting dozens of feet into the air and causing traffic shutdowns from 19th to 23rd Streets from Broadway to Sixth Avenue.

Eleven buildings were evacuated and surrounding streets were off limits to residents and workers until police began opening some streets at around 8:40 a.m., and office buildings began letting employees back inside. Town & Village’s block on West 22nd Street was one of those affected.

Town & Village driver Ray Pimentel was in his truck with stacks of this newspaper on his way to the office when he heard the massive “Boom!” nearby. Pimentel said had he not been caught at a red light on Sixth Avenue, “I would have been right in the hole in front of Chase Bank (on Fifth Avenue). I’m alive because of five seconds.”

He stopped his truck in the middle of Fifth Avenue and waited there for the Fire Department, which he said arrived in about seven minutes. Oddly, the blast didn’t smell too strong at that time.

“It was like cooking gas, you know like when you’re doing a barbecue, clean, not too bad,” he recalled.

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Con Ed to begin work on gas plant remediation wells

The gas works and storage tanks of Con Ed’s predecessor company in 1890. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents appeared more concerned about communication regarding Con Edison’s plan to dispose of toxic waste left behind from the property’s days as a manufactured gas plant than about the project itself during an information session hosted in Stuy Town last Thursday evening.

“We understand that it has to be done,” resident Sherry Kirschenbaum said. “Rick (Hayduk, the property’s general manager) said they will be working with Con Edison throughout the project. Our concerns were allayed.”

Con Ed expects the wells to remain in place for the foreseeable future but representatives said the most disruptive part of the project will be the drilling.

“We’ll be starting the drilling (during the day) once people are already at work and at school and the sonic drill rake we use is more of a hum,” Con Edison engineer Ken Kaiser said. “If there are complaints about noise, we could use some kind of baffling to muffle the sound.”

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MGP recovery wells will be installed soon in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village

The gas works and storage tanks of Con Ed’s predecessor company in 1890 (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

Con Ed announced on Wednesday that there will be a public information session on June 7 from 6-8 p.m. in Stuyvesant Town on the ongoing Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) remediation project. NYSDEC and Con Edison will be available in the Election Room located at 451 East 14th Street to answer questions from the community.

As Town & Village has previously reported, as part of the MGP cleanup in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, a total of 16 “passive recovery wells” will be installed in specific locations around the property. The goal is to look for any remaining underground contaminants stemming from the days when the property was home to the gas works and storage tanks from Con Ed’s predecessor companies.

According to Con Ed, the work is expected to begin work the week of June 11, and drilling is expected to begin the week of June 18 and will probably last four weeks. Work days will be from 9-5 p.m.  Ten wells will be placed near East 20th Street and Avenue C and East 17th Street and Avenue C and six will be located near East 14th Street and Avenue C.

In an email, the company warned that there will be fenced off work areas surrounding wells and there may be periodic noise from two drills and possibly odors.

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DEC: Contaminant recovery wells won’t be intrusive

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New York State Department of Conservation project managers Gardiner Cross and Doug MacNeal at a public meeting last Wednesday (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

With a contaminant recovery plan having been proposed for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, representatives from the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) addressed concerns of residents last week at a public meeting.

This included making assurances that wells the DEC and Con Edison plan to build in ST/PCV to collect the leftover chemicals so they can be disposed of wouldn’t be intrusive. Con Ed has been working with DEC on what’s been referred to as a “remediation” for the site, which was once home to a manufactured gas plant (MGP).

The DEC had actually directed Con Edison to begin remediation for this project back in 2011. However, DEC project manager Doug MacNeal said during the meeting that the process was delayed for the last five years because of the changes in ownership at ST/PCV.

MacNeal said that exact locations haven’t been determined for the wells yet, but Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was also at the meeting, which held at Beth Israel last Wednesday, said that he would push DEC to site them as far away as possible from doors, windows and playgrounds.

One possible location for the wells, of which there will be 10 in Peter Cooper and six in Stuy Town, would be inside the garages. Meeting attendees burst into laughter when geologist and DEC project manager Gardiner Cross said that this was because the garages already have good ventilation. However, MacNeal backed up his statement, explaining that to be up to code, a garage has to have a functional ventilation system. If it doesn’t, he added, residents should contact DEC.

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Con Ed continues oil spill clean-up

Con Ed substation in Manhattan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Con Edison and environmental contractors have continued a clean up effort this week after insulating oil leaked into the East River when a transformer in a Brooklyn substation failed last Sunday.

Spokesperson Allan Drury told Town & Village that the utility has removed 560 gallons of the oil from the water, and Con Edison is also removing soil from the substation that has soaked up oil from the spill.

Since heavy rain is forecast for this weekend, Con Edison will also be securing the impacted area around the transformer so there is no additional saturation that could cause more oil to seep into the river.

Con Edison is working to remove the damaged transformer and expects to replace it with a new unit by next week.

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Con Ed employees win industry award for East River fish protection project

Workers install equipment in the East River that reduces the plant’s impact on the  marine life. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed.)

Workers install equipment in the East River that reduces the plant’s impact on the marine life. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

Two Con Ed employees have been recognized for developing a system that protects the fish in the East River from the utility’s steam and electric plant operations.

Gary Thorn, a section manager in Central Engineering, and Brian Brush, senior scientist in Environmental Health and Safety, were the winners of an industry award called the Technology Transfer Award from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The pair led a $36 million project to design a system of five screens with fine mesh panels to filter fish, eggs and larvae from the water cooling intake at the East River generating station off East 14th Street. Additionally, while the work had initially been expected to be completed by the end of 2014, it wound up being done over a year ahead of schedule, by the end of 2013. The project started in 2006 with testing and site evaluation and review of technologies.

“A lot of the early work consisted of collection of data like how many fish there were,” said Brush. “It was a good deal of fish, but it’s importance to distinguish that when we say fish the technology also protects eggs and larvae and they’re more abundant than actual fish.”

The screens, along with a fish-return system, reduce the plant’s impact on the river. The fish-return system uses a low-pressure spray to gently remove any aquatic organisms trapped on the screens and return them to the river.

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