Demolishing an Inwood ‘eyesore’

Nassau County seeks new owner for 175 Roger Ave.

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After 23 years of neglect, the building at 175 Roger Ave. in Inwood, which was a Superfund site and a blight on the community, is being demolished, and Nassau County is seeking a new business to fill the commercial site.

Demolition be-gan at the former headquarters of Rockaway Metal Products after an Oct. 4 news conference that included several public officials and Inwood Civic Association member Barry Decroot, who lobbied his elected representatives for what he said was years to have the vacant, ramshackle structure removed.

County Executive Laura Curran said that Nassau officials were working on a request for proposals to bring a new business to the lot “and get this property back on the tax rolls.”

Decroot said that he didn’t care what might replace the building. Rather, he said, “Right now we’d just like to see it cleaned up.”

The property was acquired by the county in 1995, when property taxes went unpaid, three years after the state Department of Environmental Conservation designated it a Superfund site because hazardous chemicals were found there during an inspection in 1992. In 2011, fire damaged the structure, causing the northern section to collapse, and what remained became a makeshift shelter for homeless people.

In April 2017, the County Legislature voted to borrow $2.1 million to tear down the building. Bay Shore-based Watral Brothers Inc. was hired to raze it for $1.269 million. The project’s total cost is $1.649 million, and includes an additional $380,000 for construction management, contingency and environmental monitoring of the site.

The demolition is expected to take three months. The work will begin along the southern property line, which borders homes. The southern wall will be taken apart by hand, and mesh will be installed to protect the houses during demolition. The rest of the building will be demolished using heavy equipment, with work beginning on the property’s north side and working toward the center of the lot.

Asked his reaction to the demolition, Bill Pope-laski, of Inwood, an-swered, “It’s about time. If this was any other town, it would have been gone, but this is Inwood.”

Popelaski said that he could not imagine homes being built on the property. “People are moving out of Inwood. No one wants to move in,” he said. He added, however, that rather than having another business on the site, he would like to see “a nice temple with a school go up.”

Signs posted around the fenced-in perimeter warn about the presence of asbestos, and federal Environmental Protection Agency documents show that 240 55-gallon drums of leaking waste material, a 5,000-gallon tanker trailer in disrepair and dry wells that appeared to contain potentially flammable sludge were found on the lot. From 1993 to 1995, the EPA removed the materials, but the contamination lingered in the soil, where carcinogens such as arsenic, lead and cadmium were detected.

The county has begun preparing the site for purchase. It is zoned as a commercial lot, and according to Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman, it’s likely to remain with that designation. “We may be restricted from having housing here because of the environmental issues,” Blakeman said. “We’re going to keep an open mind to everything. The important thing is to get it cleaned up, and then we’ll figure out the proper plan with the county to make sure that it’s zoned for something that’s conducive to the community. But clearly, anything is better than this.”

Blakeman said he appreciated Curran’s involvement in helping to get the project under way. “This Rogers Avenue property has been an eyesore to the Inwood community for far too long,” the county executive said. “The revitalization and development of the Inwood community is part of my vision for Nassau County’s economic growth.”

Have an opinion on development in Inwood? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.