On Nov. 15, trucks from Posillico Inc. transported the final two loads of contaminated soil from the site of a future apartment complex in Harbor Isle to the company’s Farmingdale-based treatment plant.
The trip was the culmination of a nearly 20-year journey to cleanse the groundwater and soil that was contaminated when the site was a Cibro petroleum-storage facility, which once housed 17 million gallons of oil and fuel. With the cleanup completed, the site will soon become a $90 million, 172-unit luxury apartment complex.
“This is a big deal,” Posillico Inc. principal owner Michael Posillico said. “This has been going on nearly 20 years. It’s been a long time.”
The Arlington, Va.-based AvalonBay Communities will construct the apartment complex after more than a decade-long controversy about developing the 12-acre site. On Nov. 15, Posillico hosted a barbecue on the grounds to celebrate the end of an arduous task.
The area is part of the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program, which spurs the redevelopment and reuse of contaminated properties. The Posillico Material Soil Wash Field in Farmingdale treated more than 50,000 tons of contaminated soil and materials at the plant, which opened in September.
Standing outside the plant while contaminated soil from Island Park underwent treatment, Posillico beamed as he described the process. The contaminated soil was loaded into a sprawling mechanism, where tall conveyor belts fed it into machines that shook out and washed varying sizes of rocks and stones, sand and gravel.
From there, the wastewater was piped into a giant pool that can hold 190,000 gallons of sludge. The pollutants were then filtered out and compressed into slabs of waste, weighing about 1,000 pounds each. Posillico can recycle 90 percent of the treated soil for other uses, while 10 percent is sent to approved landfills.
“We’re pumping 7,500 gallons of water per minute through this plant,” Posillico said, shouting over the sound of the machines conducting the wash water process. “That’s a lot of water. We’ve got clean, recycled water going out to rinse, and we have contaminated water coming back in.”
Site plans for the construction of AvalonBay were submitted to Hempstead in July 2018. Hempstead officials previously blocked development of the property. In 1999, Posillico paid $2.4 million at a bankruptcy auction for the land. In 2007, the company partnered with Blue Island Development LLC to develop the lot into rental apartments and condominiums, but the town denied the inclusion of rentals in 2010 — later deciding to allow a maximum of 10 percent of the building for rentals.
AvalonBay partnered with Posillico in 2013, but the town again denied the rentals. Posillico then entered into a legal battle with town officials in State Supreme Court. In 2015, a judge issued a summary judgment in favor of Posillico, and after a 2016 appeal, the Appellate Division ruled that the town’s efforts to stop the development of rental residences was “invalid and unenforceable.”
In 2017, AvalonBay entered into a contract to purchase the property from Posillico, making it the primary stakeholder in the property’s development.
In February, AvalonBay was granted a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement from the Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency, weeks after the board initially denied the request. The payment will be $100,000 the first year, and increase in increments to $1 million by year 15.
“The board found it was an excellent project,” IDA Chief Executive Officer Fred Parola said after the vote. “Our board is oriented toward economic development.”
School officials and residents have been wary of the project. Island Park Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosmarie Bovino has opposed the development for many reasons, including her concern about the impact that adding nearly 200 more residents would have on traffic.
Board of Education President Jack Vobis told the Herald in February that he was confused about how the IDA changed its vote from 3-2 in opposition of the PILOT agreement to 4-1 in favor of it.
“My reaction at first was disbelief,” Vobis said. “We learned the possibility of there being a revote the minute after the first vote was taken. I don’t want to say this, but other people have said the fix was in, which you can’t argue with. You only revote to change an outcome.”
Rich Schurin, who has lived near the site for 18 years, said he was one of a dozen residents, school officials and union workers to address the IDA board in opposition to the proposal last winter. “There was absolutely no justification for the revote,” Schurin said. “I’m against it because the costs far outweigh the reduced tax revenue that this project would bring as a result of the project.”
The complex will be geared toward young adults and seniors, and will generate $400,000 in taxes by its fourth year, Parola said. AvalonBay will now seek certification from the Department of Environmental Conservation, and then will look to finalize the deal to purchase the property from Posillico by early 2020.
Posillico said it was often frustrating trying to complete the cleanup for 20 years, but noted that he was happy to see the final two truckloads of contaminated soil leave the site.
“It feels good to accomplish something, however we got there,” he said. “Am I disappointed it took this long? Sure, I’m disappointed. But nothing as worthwhile and good as this comes easy.”